The CNN Freedom Project

CNN Freedom Project highlights victims and potential dangers of ‘voluntourism’ in Kenya

In a report by Farai Savenzo for The CNN Freedom Project, the network examines for-profit orphanages in Kenya, which are often supported by well-meaning donors and visiting volunteers.

The CNN Freedom Project speaks to Teresita, a former child trafficking victim, who found herself recruited for an orphanage on the promise of free education, food and housing.

Teresita outlines the conditions of the orphanage, and explains that children were not allowed to speak to volunteers who attended the orphanage believing they were helping their wellbeing.

CNN speaks to Michelle Oliel, who had helped raise thousands of dollars for the orphanage. Having now founded the Stahili Foundation, Oliel and Teresita now both speak out on the potential dangers of so-called "voluntourism" and helping families locate family members or guardians.

Leif Coorlim, executive editor of The CNN Freedom Project, said on the issue: “This investigation shows there are certain orphanages that are exploiting people’s goodwill for profit, and causing great suffering for their victims.”

Join The CNN Freedom Project on 14 March 2017 for #MyFreedomDay - a day-long event when students around the world will be holding events to raise awareness of modern slavery.


Key quotes below:

Teresita on the conditions at the orphanage and being unable to speak to volunteers:

“Sometimes you could be told not to come to school a volunteer is coming so you had to entertain that volunteer… We used to not go to school we stay until they come… You can't tell the volunteers that are around you maybe you fear because you might also be told you won’t eat, because you fear the punishment that you get harassment you decide let me just keep quiet, let me just stay with my problems in the orphanage."

Michelle Oliel on discovering the truth about the orphanage, having raised thousands of dollars for it:

“Years later I learned the horrible truth, things that I had not seen while I was there, that children were often starving, children were forced to work some of the children were not even sleeping at the orphanage but were sleeping in porcupine holes for example.”

Michelle Oliel on the extent of the issue of child trafficking in Kenya:

“Children are being commoditised and placed in an orphanage for the sole purpose of bringing in donations and other various donated goods, and this is done intentionally. This is not an accident that most of the cases that we've dealt with children have families. they are exploiting vulnerable children, vulnerable people and vulnerable guardians.”

Teresita on her future and role in combatting human trafficking with the Stahili Foundation:

“After I got older I understood that my rights were being violated… The hidden agenda of orphanages became revealed when a kid starts maturing up getting older they get to learn their rights and they can defend themselves. I'll be speaking out to many other generations and change the world”