In October last year Student Educational Adventures staff attended a workshop in Adelaide (Australia) to discuss ethical and responsible travel. The focus of this conference was to raise ideas about the issues surrounding visiting orphanages in Asia with the conference providing an opportunity to hear from non-governmental organisations about their thoughts and the ethics surrounding this practise.

The conference helped us in identifying several issues that schools may not be aware of or have overlooked in their planning. This included analysing existing travel programs provided for student groups who visit NGOs, orphanages and similar organisations to try and establish how well they operate i.e. Do these organisations meet the criteria of being a responsible operation and are their practices transparent and their outcomes positive for all parties concerned?

Workshops conducted at the conference covered the concept of service-learning, touching on quantifying the usefulness of service learning and the processes that might equip students with the tools to positively engage in authentic interaction with local people (students’ contemporaries) in developing countries.

On the topic of visiting orphanages, a premise was proposed that orphanages should not be supported in any shape or form due to the possible exploitation of orphans, institutionalising young people and unethical practices. This topic caused some heavy discussions amongst the delates some of whom asserted and noted the good work some orphanages do and the fact that some genuine orphans, especially those with disabilities, had no better place to go to was being ignored. The discussion did highlight the negative press orphanages and children centres have received recently and resulted in many worthwhile points raised and analysed amongst the delegates and travel companies present.

The overall result of the day was very beneficial in bringing to the front issues of ethical and responsible travel and how educational tour operators, can better critically analyse and make informed decisions on the service-learning programs they offer to school groups. Lessons glean form the conference will continue to enable us to tweak, refine or change existing programs we offer to schools from around the world.