The Hague University of Applied Sciences discontinues orphanage internships

On 20 November 2020, Universal Children's Day, The Hague University of Applied Sciences signed the University Pledge to Stop Orphanage Internships. This means that THUAS students will no longer do internships at orphanages worldwide. This pledge was the result of a collaboration with the Better Care Network Netherlands, a partnership of children's rights organisations, upon the initiative of the Global Citizenship research group.

Adverse effects of internships in orphanages  

Internships in orphanages have several adverse effects. Studies show that 80% of the children in an orphanage still have at least one living parent. These children often end up in an orphanage due to poverty. The fuller the orphanage, the more money is earned from foreign visitors. Orphanages are often big business.   

Doing something good

Until the COVID-19 pandemic, volunteering and doing internships in developing countries was extremely popular. Student interns want to “do something good” and they bring money and gifts with them and often continue to send these after they have left. But the more money they bring to orphanages, the more attractive the orphanages become to families living in poverty. These families mistakenly think that their children have a better future in an orphanage than at home.  

Attachment problems 

Growing up in an orphanage often has a negative effect on a child's health, development and chances for the future. This is mainly due to the lack of individual attention. Children in orphanages are also at a high risk of developing attachment problems, partly due to the changing caregivers. The coming and going of student interns may only reinforce these attachment problems.  

Good alternatives  

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there are now no foreign internships. Nevertheless, on Universal Children's Day, The Hague University of Applied Sciences draws attention to orphanage tourism. ‘As a UNESCO University of Applied Sciences, we would like to sign this pledge to put an end to this excessive system of aid assistance’, says Rajash Rawal, member of the Executive Board of the University of Applied Sciences. ‘We are carefully resuming the planning for new internships, and fortunately there are many alternatives for those students who want to do something good for the world.’ Degree programmes like Pedagogy, PABO (primary education teacher-training programme) and Social Work stopped sending students to orphanages for internships more than ten years ago because the quality of the guidance was insufficient.