How Orphanages Can Con People

Whatever I am about to say might shock you!

Before I begin, I would like to start by saying that I have been to some of the most well-managed orphanages and children’s homes in the world as part of our travels.

Among the orphanages that I really loved visiting around the world is Happy House in Watamu, Kenya and another one in Quito Ecuador. I found nothing wrong with them and would recommend them to anyone seeking to partner with an orphanage.

However, what you are about to read here is not about the good orphanages but rather, about the tricks used by other orphanages to drain the bank accounts of sponsors and well-wishers. And sadly, we have seen this in another orphanage we visited too.

In a nutshell, I want to also warn you of how some orphanages can con people into giving. And this upsets me greatly, because we are ones who love to give, and are really big on random acts of kindness; but when we feel violated and ripped off when we give, this is something that makes us want to warn others too.

As we drive down the laneway towards an orphanage in Africa my heart is full of anticipation.  However, this orphanage was one of the saddest I have ever seen.

My heartfelt ripped from my chest as I saw desolation and shocking conditions, and in this instance, I just wanted to give to help these poor children.  It was a terrible situation, and I wanted to rescue them all.

But was this situation legitimate?  Only God knows. And it makes us realize…..

We need to:

  • be wise and to ask the right questions.
  • look with open eyes.
  • seek the truth.

So here are some of the ways how some orphanages can con people Into giving.


©Exploramum and Explorason – orphanages can be desperate

Hidden Items

Again I will say that what I am about to say is not a reflection of all orphanages. Plus the pictures/images we use are not stating that this has happened at these orphanages we visited – but are just examples to illustrate the article.  However, from my research, I discovered that in many developing countries have orphanages that practice corruption and dishonesty that comes from the leadership, and/or staff that work there.

To explain the cases of hidden items, I will narrate to you a story told to me by a friend who works with orphanages.

TV©Exploramum and Explorason – A TV in an orphanage we visited


About a year ago, my friend visited an orphanage in Kenya and discovered that the home had no TV.   Information from the director confirmed that the Children’s Home had not had a TV for many years, and desperately desired to have one for the children that lived there.  As a result, the children had no form of entertainment.

Well-wishers raised money that went towards the purchase of a new TV. It was a 24” flat screen TV that cost them $120 US – which is huge for this country where the rent on the givers home is $80 US a month – so he has little to spare.

©Exploramum and Explorason – Imagine this being the TV relaxation area in an orphanage

The Shock

After donating the brand new digital TV to the orphanage, my friend made a surprise visit to that same Children’s Home one afternoon and was shocked at what he discovered.

The home had two other Television sets that were hidden away from visitors. He discovered that these TV sets had been in the home long before he even purchased a brand new one.

To make things even worse, these, the TWO TV’s – both were in a perfect state!  Can you believe it?

So why couldn’t they just be honest and tell the truth?  I wonder.

The story was really scary to me since I have always gone through every measure to put a smile on the faces of children wherever I go in the orphanages we have worked directly with.  Was I also a victim of such?  I took time to reflect on my journey and the many times my suspicions have kept me away from certain orphanages.

Let me tell you another story that will prove to you that orphanages actually hide items from well-wishers.

©Exploramum and Explorason – clothes are given to orphanages

Worn Out Clothes

After realizing that almost every orphanage I visited had children who wore torn, faded and oversized clothes, I decided to do a personal research. I did this since I never want to make allegations that have no backing. So I met another friend who made everything very clear to me.

We did some research on social media accounts belonging to certain orphanages and even physically walked into their rooms. Also, we did surprise visits just to catch the home unaware.

Our discovery was as follows:

The children have too many clothes in their rooms. Some of them are even left folded on the floors since there is no space for them. Most of these clothes are also decent and smart. I discovered that most orphanages actually receive clothes more than any other thing.

Everyone from every corner visits these homes with clothes among many other things. Unfortunately, they will not wear these clothes when visitors come since they want to give an impression that they are suffering.

This seems to be a scheme by the directors to make people want to partner with them. Plus, this is a classic way as to how orphanages can con givers.


©Exploramum and Explorason -bags of clothes at an orphanage

So How Orphanages Can Con People

My friend felt so demoralized to learn that a director had included the name of his children on the list of orphans who needed helps. He bought clothes and shoes for the children, including the director’s children, who he thought was part of the children in the orphanage.

It is so sad that while my friend had torn shoes himself, he went beyond his budget to buy items for the ‘extra’ names (the director’s children).

Yes, he felt really conned.  This is a prime example of just how orphanages can con people.

So again I ask this question:

Do these directors know the pain people go through to buy the children even a packet of rice?


©Exploramum and Explorason – Beds in an orphanage we visited were neatly made

How to avoid these schemes

With all these and more evidence, it is beyond any doubt that there is a get rich scheme by directors of some of these orphanages. They will do anything possible to drain money off well-wishers.

The moment they realize you are falling for their ‘lies’, they will make situations more emotional since they understand that the more you are emotional, the more you give more money towards their purported needs.

If you give to these thieves, this aids their scheme and encourages them to continue.  This is exactly how orphanages can con people and we want to help expose it.

Children's Home

©Exploramum and Explorason – Children’s Homes are worth visiting

There are two ways you can avoid con directors

First – is to conduct a research on the orphanage.

Visit their social media account to know more about them.

Also, Google them to see if there are any fundraisers they have had over the past years and try to find out how the money helped them.  If it was meant for a specific thing like renovations and purchase of water tanks, try to find out if these are done. Also, if they are not done, then you might want to be cautious when dealing with the home. This will help you to see with wisdom just how orphanages can con those who give from their heart.

Second – is to ensure that you don’t leave the orphanage without distributing the items personally you bought to each child. Plus, if you allow directors to do the distributing, there is always a chance that they will sell them off or keep them for themselves.

These are the measures that have helped me avoid being conned and I believe they will also assist you as you continue with your charity work.

©Exploramum and Explorason

Do not stop giving – but be wise as to how you give.

Questions and Comments

  • Have you ever visited an orphanage in a developing country?
  • Have you ever given only to feel you have wasted your hard-earned finances?
  • What do you think about this?  
  • Please tell us in the comments below.

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Important Notice:
It is important to note that no images used in this photo reflect the behavior of any persons associated in any way with the Children’s Home or Orphanage photographed or referred to.

20 thoughts on “How Orphanages Can Con People

  1. It is even worse than that in Cambodia. The desire for people to volunteer in Siem Reap, in particular, has increased the “need” for orphans. Many are actually from the local town. It is really sad and the directors often are getting a lot of money in donations. The children or families do not see it. I saw it was way back in 2007. It has gotten so much worse.

    I think buying things like toothpaste, school supplies or basic foods like biscuits can be more helpful. I did visit an orphanage in Tanzania. I asked them what they needed. It was simple household supplies. I got that and a couple of soccer balls. It can be hard when you feel helpless but want to help!

  2. Hi there
    I love following your posts, and this one in particular, i found very interesting. My son and I are off to Nepal in a week to volunteer, at a childrens hospital and orphanage. Its really helpful to have a ‘heads up’ on what we may find, I will definitely make sure we ask questions, as i am really vulnerable in regards to children, having spent years supporting and caring for them, and am easily swayed by my emotions. Hopefully we wont encounter any of these issues, but its really good to be fore warned.



    • I hope you enjoy Nepal – I’ve not been yet. I’m shocked as we are working one on one with some of the orphans now after we found out that they don’t get taken to the hospital if they are sick etc. There is a lot to keep your eyes open for! Thanks for reading our blog article.

        • June – we have partnered with some orphanages that are beyond reproach too so they are not all like this. But look for the signs – you will know. I have had the opposite too. Where I visited an orphanage that had so much they appeared richer than me. they had sheds full of new donations and it was like a hospital. Use your wisdom, and have a wonderful time. Ruth

  3. it is helpful that you do surprise visits because here you see the real situation of the orphans in the orphanage…

    when i volunteer, i give my services such as teaching english, or creating a website for the organization to raise awareness, or sell stuff that was created by the communities for their self sustainable livelihood instead.. i think this is more empowering that just giving money

    • Hi Grasya,
      You make a very good point. Surprise visits aren’t what a like but it shows us the REAL situation.
      Glad you are doing what you do too.
      I know you were recently in the Philippines.

  4. Such an important topic. We have had concerns after visiting orphanages in Thailand. I find it really sad that we have to ask these kinds of questions but you’re absolutely right that we have to be wise. It is a reality even if it is heartbreaking.

    • It’s important before donating that you use your wisdom and detective skills to hunt around. I went to one orphanage who knew we were coming. He told us the children had no seating. We snuck off whilst he was busy and found it chained up in a shed. He just wanted our $$ to buy seats. Often they sell off donations. But then I have been to other orphanages where the just don’t have enough. Some countries they have no government or international aid. I also work with a mission in Uganda who raises all their own funds, they pay their own airfares and do an amazing work, so there are good ones out there. Sorry you had concerns in Thailand. Sounds like you are wise.

  5. Thank for sharing this (even though it was sad). The clothing thing doesn’t surprise me at all. Well, that they get a lot of clothing. It surprised me they didn’t have the kids wear it. I used to volunteer at a homeless shelter for women and children, and we got SO MUCH clothing. We could have clothed an entire school. We ended up trashing about a quarter (because people donate clothing in horrible condition that no one would wear), and giving about half to Goodwill. And I’m sure Goodwill ended up trashing a bunch too.
    I don’t say this to not encourage people to donate. Just be aware to only give good quality stuff. And that stuff besides clothing might be more useful!

  6. Thank you for shedding light on this. I was so blessed several years ago to visit and do some work in orphanages in the Russian Far East. I had a friend from the United States who was a missionary over there and actually physically worked in the area day in and out for years. So, she saw firsthand the needs and it was overwhelming and heartbreaking to go see it myself…yet I was encouraged to know that what I was witnessing was authentic. It’s sad that there are cons out there who cause suspicion and take goods and products from others that likely do really need them. Definitely a great reminder to do your research.

  7. This is heartbreaking. It’s so unfortunate that these orphanages ruin it for so many others who are ethical and actually utilize the goods and funds accordingly. I’m sorry that this happened to your friend. Thank you for the insight.

    • Bad things happen to good people, but we must still continue to believe in mankind and to help our fellow man. What they do is their choice at the end of the day, I agree.

  8. I work occasionally as a tour guide for an international agency, and checking out the ‘local service project’ on the itinerary is often the part of the pre-trip pre I look forward to the least. There are some truly good orphanages/schools/etc out there… but there are definitely some super bad ones as well.

  9. This is such a hard topic to unpack, really appreciate you helping people under this. I lived in Cambodia for a while which another of the worst places for this. So many travellers mean so well, I think this post will help.

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