This week one of my students said he had done volunteer work in Cambodia. This elicited admiring coos from the others in his group. I asked him what work he had done there. He had played with orphans, he said, which brought forth more coos of delight.
Personally I found this odd. Can’t Cambodians play with their own orphans? Are they so busy that they have to fly in rich Japanese and western students to play with their children? Surely ‘playing’ is one of the things that doesn’t require western expertise or technology and is something even poor and primitive societies can do by themselves. Because Cambodians are already on hand and speak the lingo you might imagine it made more sense for them to play with their own orphans.
I can only assume this is all done for the benefit of rich young Japanese and westerners rather than for the orphans themselves. Tired of jet-skiing in Bali? Sick of safaris in Africa? Then come and play with a few orphans in Cambodia! No need to get married or raise your own children. Just play at being a parent for a week, leave and feel good about yourself on the plane home. Later you can bathe in a righteous glow when your classmates admire you for what you did.