Friday, November 14, 2008

Cambodia's ophanages for non-orphans

Thanks to Alison for pointing this out to me. A Nov 8 video by Aljazeera on a Cambodian orphanage where only five in 100 children there were actual orphans. This is typical of Cambodia--"orphanages" are centres that take in children from poor families who cannot afford to look after them. I don't think it is morally reprehensible to take in children who would otherwise be abandoned by their parents, but eyebrows were raised in this case because, among other things, the orphanage director featured apparently refused to have his accounts audited.

I once spoke to the Western director of one big orphanage who told me about a father bringing in his seven children to leave at the orphanage. When the director asked the Cambodian man why, he replied he found a new wife and he was planning to start a new family with her.

I know a Cambodian woman who grew up in an orphanage in Sihanoukville who was left there by her father when he remarried. She told me about the corruption in that orphanage. Then there was Chantou, our cook at Bloom cafe who lived in an NGO for children who told me about rice and stationery donated to the centre and then promptly sold by the NGO's director, an Asian woman who made enough money to retire to France.

When you live in Cambodia long enough, you will get to know Cambodians who were former drivers/helpers of missionaries and other NGO heads who now run their own NGOs or orphanages. It's just too easy. Why work when you can get donations?

And while we are on the subject, adoption facilitator Lauryn Galindo was so successful in her scam, two of her Cambodian staff members started their own adoption agencies. Galindo was sentenced to 18 months in prison in the US and ordered to forfeit the proceeds of her crime to the government in the form of her home in Hawaii worth $1.4 million, and the value of her Jaguar (approx $25,000). You can read the press release from the US Department of Justice here:

Galindo was also the facilitator for Angelina Jolie's baby. Incredibly, even as she was running "a scheme that treated hundreds of children as nothing more than commodities", to quote the US special agent-in-charge, Galindo saw herself as doing humanitarian work, as she told Cambodia Daily reporter Richard Sine way back in 2002.

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