‘All children deserve equal happiness’ says Izzy, a Stahili Foundation ambassador from the US.

However, in reality many children are denied the right to a family, education and a happy childhood.

More than eight million children around the world grow up outside families in residential care institutions such as orphanages.

Four out of five of these children are not actually orphans, having at least one, if not both, parents alive, or close family members who could care for them. Most often, poverty and lack of resources make parents and guardians place their children in  orphanages, believing that they will have a better life in an institution. As a result, millions of children are denied the right to a family.

Decades of research has made it clear that growing up in an orphanage has a negative impact on children’s emotional, physical and psychological development. Unfortunately, though it is 10 times cheaper to support families rather than orphanages, and despite UN guidelines affirming the short-term character of orphanages as place of last resort, the number of orphanages world-wide is increasing. Why?

Unknowing and well-intended donors who send money to orphanages abroad, or even set up institutions on their own, believing more resources will improve the lives of vulnerable children, can inadvertently create more problems of long-term institutionalisation of children in orphanages. Moreover, often the funds do not even reach the children, but instead fuel an orphanage industry that operates out of commercial interests rather than the interests of children.

The recent growth in ‘voluntourism’ provides another reason why the number of orphanages has risen. Young people wishing to combine exciting travel opportunities with doing good often end up volunteering in an orphanages, usually for short periods of time and without experience or qualifications in caring for vulnerable children. Many gap year students are  convinced that their volunteering will make their university applications look better. In reality, they may be contributing to the orphanage industry and depriving children – most of whom are not actually orphans – of the chance of a family life. Many universities would not consider a short and unskilled overseas volunteering stint as something that would strengthen an application.   

The good news is: there is a better way to help!

Take for example the 30 young people from 14 countries around the world who chose an ethical way of volunteering. Meet the Stahili Youth Ambassadors!

Together they use their voices to raise awareness of the harms of orphanages and help to spread the word about why children deserve the right to a family, and why we should promote family-based care for children instead of institutional solutions.

Our ambassadors are grateful for the opportunities they have enjoyed in their own lives,  and want to use it to help others: The least someone who was privileged enough to have a good childhood can do is to speak out for those who cannot speak for themselves, no matter where they are in the world. This is what motivates Irem from Turkey to volunteer as a Stahili ambassador.

Why not become a Stahili ambassador TODAY?

It’s all about taking small simple steps. Do not donate to orphanages. Do not volunteer in an orphanage. Remember there are no good or bad orphanages. No orphanage is good!

Talk to your friends about it and advocate for children’s rights to a family!

If you want to volunteer, choose an ethical way of volunteering! Do your research and make sure that the organisation is helping its target group and is not simply looking to make a profit out of their vulnerability. Consider volunteering in your own community or even from your own home.

Aina Giving makes it all the much easier for you with their ‘’Pencils for Hope’’ project.  A Pencils for Hope project or party basket includes everything to make a pencil case and a decorated pencil which can have an immediate and useful impact in a child’s life. The cost  of school supplies can be a huge burden for families, such as those in Stahili’s programme in Kenya. That’s where you come in! You’ll get resources and videos showing just how much your contribution makes a difference in the lives of these kiddos. This project is for all  – and easy enough for children as young as four to tackle. It’s the perfect craft for any parent, civic group, or church leader.

We hope  your ‘pencils for hope’ soiree inspires you to continue to advocate for children’s rights to a family! You can read more about Stahili and the work we do to reunite children trafficked to orphanages with their families at stahili.org. If you want to get involved and volunteer as Stahili Ambassador – drop us a line at ambassador@stahili.org.

Maria Manolescu helps to advocate for Stahili Foundation, an internationally recognized (and Aina-approved!) NGO that helps to place children back with families. Among other duties, Maria helps to coordinate the efforts of the Stahili Youth Ambassadors program.


Mamas Aina

Carmen & Kristin

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