CNW - As Canadians flock south for March getaways, World Vision is offering tips to keep children safe when travelling.
Local children, that is. According to the aid agency, children living in developing countries are drawn to tourist spots to earn incomes through street begging, selling souvenirs and prostitution. These children spend long days – and nights – wandering streets, beaches, shopping and bar districts, doing work that can make them highly vulnerable to exploitation by foreigners, particularly travelling child-sex offenders.
Top Five Travel Tips:
1.Find alternatives to giving money to children begging or selling trinkets. Giving money or gifts directly to children only makes the problem worse, by keeping them on the streets, out of school and vulnerable to abuse. It's better to donate to reputable local charities that work directly with children at risk.
2.Choose hotels and tour companies that implement child protection standards such as The Code, an initiative driven by the tourism industry to fight sexual exploitation of children. Also, if you see a business where a child is being exploited – for example, working long hours in a hotel – speak up and take your business elsewhere.
3.Report any suspected sexual exploitation of children immediately to the relevant authorities or to international agencies. If you see a Canadian attempting to sexually exploit a child, report it through cybertip.ca
4.Ask permission before taking photos of children. If in doubt, don't take the photo. Also, when you take photos make sure that the content is appropriate. Don't take photos of children with little clothing on. Often as a result of poverty, children in developing countries may be in public without adequate clothing.
5.Do your research before visiting or volunteering with vulnerable children abroad. Don't volunteer with any organization that does not ask for a resume, references and police reports in advance of your arrival. Without even these basic checks the organization can't know who they are letting in and therefore are not adhering to the most basic child protection standards.
Quotes: "When you're approached by a child selling souvenirs, the natural instinct is to want to help them by buying a few items. But if you give money, they may end up handing it over to an abusive adult who is forcing them to work. Tourists should not make child exploitation profitable, even if it's unintentional," said Cheryl Hotchkiss, manager of World Vision Canada's No Child For Sale awareness campaign.
• 87 per cent of Canadians are more likely to choose a tour operator or hotel if the company supports local organizations that protect children. (Ipsos-Reid)
• Many travellers are sad, guilty and concerned about child exploitation, yet most feel powerless to help. In a recent survey in South East Asia, three quarters of tourists wanted to help at-risk children, however many were confused about how to do so. (The Child Safe Traveller)