As a company who has proudly helped orphaned children across Africa for over a decade, African Impact does not support the institutionalizing of children in orphanages and has implemented a strict policy to help ensure that we only work with organizations that aim to transition children into permanent family environments.
UNICEF defines an orphan as a child who has lost one or both parents. Of the 140 million orphaned children worldwide, only 10% have lost both parents, calling into question the reason why an extraordinary number of children are placed into orphanages and removed from family settings. Unfortunately, exploitive orphanages exist where the focus is on generating income from well-meaning volunteers, not the welfare of the children. In extreme cases, the children in these orphanages may even have been trafficked for the sole purpose of using them for financial gain. This brings the entire vulnerable childcare sector into disrepute and negatively affects many worthy organizations across the globe.
The reality is that, with the right support from local governments and improved education and opportunities for disadvantaged communities across the world, a large number of these children could be re-integrated into family or community-based environments instead.
It is for this reason that we took the decision to stop working with a number of orphanages across the continent and, as of 2018, no longer have any affiliation with this type of institution. This decision was not taken lightly and was only done when sustainable and practical solutions were in place to care for the children. We believe that orphanages are not the best way to help needy children and our volunteers’ efforts would be better spent helping in transitional institutions instead.
The complexities of the countries in which we work, however, means solutions are not straight-forward or simple; there are still 52 million orphaned African children who are not receiving sufficient support or a quality education.
While African Impact, under no circumstances, supports the institutionalizing of children in orphanages, we do continue to work with orphaned children in reputable childcare organizations if the long-term aim of these institutions is to place children into a family setting. Our goal is to support vulnerable children across Africa and help them reach their full potential and our volunteer work will continue in foster-care homes, after-school centers and schools across the continent.
In order to do this effectively and ensure that our programming is beneficial for the children and partner organizations we support, African Impact always hires long-term staff (both international and local) across all of our volunteer projects and works hand-in-hand with local carers and teachers in a variety of facilities. Our volunteers are there to support and assist the local staff members, not replace them. Unlike the majority of volunteer organizations, we are an African company and rather than simply ‘place’ volunteers, we work alongside local communities with the volunteers. This extensive experience means we are right at the heart of this issue and champion what is best for the children. Volunteers bring more than resources and donations to projects; they are part of tangible, long-term solutions that have been designed in partnership with the local community.
From African Impact’s perspective, it’s our responsibility to ensure our presence in every destination is in the best interests of the community and protects the children involved. Not only do we have extremely strict criminal record check requirements prior to volunteer involvement, we are extremely proud of our industry-leading Child Protection Policy, written in partnership with our sister charity, The African Impact Foundation. We know it is our responsibility to safeguard and promote the welfare of children, so we have based our policy on the UN Standards for Child Protection. African Impact’s focus is on creating a safe environment within which children can thrive and adults can work with the security of clear guidance.
African Impact will continue to do our small part in uplifting Africa’s most vulnerable by ensuring our volunteers make a lasting and positive impact