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How (Not) to Start an Orphanage: ... by a woman who did

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How could it be wrong to save the children by starting an orphanage? Oh, in so many ways . . . Tara Winkler first arrived in Cambodia to join a tour group in 2005 and was taken to visit a small orphanage in Battambang. The children were living in extreme poverty, and Tara was determined to raise money to help them. Two years later, after fundraising in Australia, Tara return How could it be wrong to save the children by starting an orphanage? Oh, in so many ways . . . Tara Winkler first arrived in Cambodia to join a tour group in 2005 and was taken to visit a small orphanage in Battambang. The children were living in extreme poverty, and Tara was determined to raise money to help them. Two years later, after fundraising in Australia, Tara returned to Battambang only to discover that the same children were in deep trouble. Her spontaneous response was to find them a new, safe, home. With a team of committed locals and support from friends, she established the Cambodian Children's Trust (CCT). With an instant family of fourteen children and three dogs, Tara had to learn a lot, very fast. And, along the way, she realised that many of the actions she took with good intentions were not at all what the children needed - or indeed, what any child needs. CCT now helps vulnerable children to escape poverty and be cared for within their families. In this compelling, poignant and funny memoir, Tara shares the many joys and the terrible lows of her journey thus far with honesty and passion. Written with co-writer, Lynda Delacey, How (Not) to Start an Orphanage is a book that will keep you thinking long after you turn the final page.


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How could it be wrong to save the children by starting an orphanage? Oh, in so many ways . . . Tara Winkler first arrived in Cambodia to join a tour group in 2005 and was taken to visit a small orphanage in Battambang. The children were living in extreme poverty, and Tara was determined to raise money to help them. Two years later, after fundraising in Australia, Tara return How could it be wrong to save the children by starting an orphanage? Oh, in so many ways . . . Tara Winkler first arrived in Cambodia to join a tour group in 2005 and was taken to visit a small orphanage in Battambang. The children were living in extreme poverty, and Tara was determined to raise money to help them. Two years later, after fundraising in Australia, Tara returned to Battambang only to discover that the same children were in deep trouble. Her spontaneous response was to find them a new, safe, home. With a team of committed locals and support from friends, she established the Cambodian Children's Trust (CCT). With an instant family of fourteen children and three dogs, Tara had to learn a lot, very fast. And, along the way, she realised that many of the actions she took with good intentions were not at all what the children needed - or indeed, what any child needs. CCT now helps vulnerable children to escape poverty and be cared for within their families. In this compelling, poignant and funny memoir, Tara shares the many joys and the terrible lows of her journey thus far with honesty and passion. Written with co-writer, Lynda Delacey, How (Not) to Start an Orphanage is a book that will keep you thinking long after you turn the final page.

30 review for How (Not) to Start an Orphanage: ... by a woman who did

  1. 4 out of 5

    Andrea

    A very honest memoir from an inspiring young Australian, that may make you rethink the your ideas about "charity". So glad I was gifted this book by my thoughtful husband. A very honest memoir from an inspiring young Australian, that may make you rethink the your ideas about "charity". So glad I was gifted this book by my thoughtful husband.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Sofia TA

    Such a great book from such an amazing woman! There are a lot of things to learn, and loads to change.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Melissa Radford

    Great book! Heart breakingly eye-openeing.

  4. 4 out of 5

    TheCosyDragon

    This review has been crossposted from my blog at The Cosy Dragon . Please head there for more in-depth reviews by me, which appear on a timely schedule. Tara first came to Cambodia over 10 years ago on a long-needed vacation. What she found there were horrific orphanage conditions and suffering that she knew shouldn’t exist. When she returned home, she was determined to raise funds and help those children in need. The process ended up to be slightly more complicated than she expected, and this is This review has been crossposted from my blog at The Cosy Dragon . Please head there for more in-depth reviews by me, which appear on a timely schedule. Tara first came to Cambodia over 10 years ago on a long-needed vacation. What she found there were horrific orphanage conditions and suffering that she knew shouldn’t exist. When she returned home, she was determined to raise funds and help those children in need. The process ended up to be slightly more complicated than she expected, and this is the story of that 10 years. Wow. This novel. Non-fiction is winning at the moment. This was fantastic and well-written. I felt myself at Tara’s side, and I absolutely empathised with every situation she found herself in, likely or not. We are walked through her childhood and highschool years, and then her ‘career’ after that. There are so many situations that Tara found herself in, and it feels like she has done justice to describing them in this novel. Tara learns a bit of everything, she has to! And so does the reader. I had never really been interested in child attachment psychology, but wow, it is so obvious. I was reading recently about another novel I think where there was a room full of babies in an orphanage – and the room was silent. When asked what was wrong with the babies, the manager replied that the babies had learnt that crying didn’t do anything. In reading this novel, you’re going to have to look at both the positive and negatives of orphanages. The main take home of this novel is to remember that orphanages are not actually in a child’s best interest. The best is to have them in their own family, and then provide support services to help them remain there. This is non-fiction, so I won’t be rating it. It’s well worth the read.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Ashlee

    Even though I work in development, so already know a lot about the issues Tara covers in the book, I appreciate that she has written it in an accessible way so it can be read by a wide audience who may not know such things. Her honesty in admitting the mistakes she made and the difficulties she faced in finding herself running an orphanage at such a young age is also a really positive contribution - doing development better is all about learning. It's great that she speaks out so strongly agains Even though I work in development, so already know a lot about the issues Tara covers in the book, I appreciate that she has written it in an accessible way so it can be read by a wide audience who may not know such things. Her honesty in admitting the mistakes she made and the difficulties she faced in finding herself running an orphanage at such a young age is also a really positive contribution - doing development better is all about learning. It's great that she speaks out so strongly against institutional care now, and that she has written this book so that others understand the problems of Cambodia's 'orphanage industry' and hopefully won't perpetuate it. I found this book easy to read - despite the often serious subject matter it is fairly light to get through - and I would recommend it to anyone who might head to a country like Cambodia to do short stint voluntourism or who might 'visit' an orphanage during their trip. Also to anyone who is considering financially supporting a children's charity that is not one of the large, internationally-vetted ones, so they know the right questions to ask (in fact, there's a list of the right questions to ask in the back of the book).

  6. 5 out of 5

    Maxine Hawker

    This is an honest, authentic book that I devoured in a few days. Tara has stripped herself bare and shared her personal story. Her privileged upbringing Most people think orphanages save children and this is what Tara thought in the beginning. Tara's ability to self reflect, accept criticism and act belie her youth. The obstacles and challenges that she has dealt with are incredible and beyond comprehension. She arrived back in Battambang to help an orphanage only to discover corruption was rife This is an honest, authentic book that I devoured in a few days. Tara has stripped herself bare and shared her personal story. Her privileged upbringing Most people think orphanages save children and this is what Tara thought in the beginning. Tara's ability to self reflect, accept criticism and act belie her youth. The obstacles and challenges that she has dealt with are incredible and beyond comprehension. She arrived back in Battambang to help an orphanage only to discover corruption was rife and the kids were in serious danger. Her courage, tenacity and fierce determination are inspirational. Moreover and more importantly Tara is driving change to stop children and 'orphans' being used to create feelgood holidays, voluntourism, gap years etc. As she states, surely in Australia we can see by our Stolen Generation that institutionalising children results in an ongoing cycle of dysfunction. The story does concludes with many lessons learnt and the creation of a new model of to help break the poverty cycle. I have gained so much from this book. This message needs to be shared so please read, recommend it and pass it on and/or buy a copy for someone.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Emily Craven

    This is one of the most well written memoirs I've read in a very long time. It's done in a beautiful conversational tone that is so easy to read. I love how completely honest Tara is, about herself, about the state of things in Cambodia, about her struggles, about her doubts, and how she finds the will the push through despite it all. That's the definition of true courage. I wish that the book also detailed the last 3 years of Tara's life, as they set up their family care model because that in i This is one of the most well written memoirs I've read in a very long time. It's done in a beautiful conversational tone that is so easy to read. I love how completely honest Tara is, about herself, about the state of things in Cambodia, about her struggles, about her doubts, and how she finds the will the push through despite it all. That's the definition of true courage. I wish that the book also detailed the last 3 years of Tara's life, as they set up their family care model because that in itself is a story and an important part of getting across the key message in the book, that orphanages don't work. Seeing how an organisation such as CCT is attempting to deal with the problem, from the really personable perspective of Tara is invaluable to those of us who are trying to understand it. The book is a wonderful weaving of external story with the very personal story of Tara, which really helped me connect. Many thanks for showing us your whole story Tara, it has a beautiful vulnerability to it that I think anyone who reads this can't help but connect with.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Kim Miller

    I started reading this book at 9pm last night and have been so engrossed in it that (other than a few hours sleep) I haven't done a thing other than read it since. This is a well written description of many development issues in S/E Asia, Cambodia specifically, couched in the story of a remarkable young woman. It's essentially reading for anyone who has ever considered a stint of voluntourism or who supports overseas orphanages and NGOs. Made me even prouder to be a supporter of Blue Dragon Chil I started reading this book at 9pm last night and have been so engrossed in it that (other than a few hours sleep) I haven't done a thing other than read it since. This is a well written description of many development issues in S/E Asia, Cambodia specifically, couched in the story of a remarkable young woman. It's essentially reading for anyone who has ever considered a stint of voluntourism or who supports overseas orphanages and NGOs. Made me even prouder to be a supporter of Blue Dragon Children's Foundation in Vietnam.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Therese Hansen

    En fantastisk bok som tar upp så många viktiga punkter om familjer i fattigdom och vad bland annat turism kan göra för enorm skada om det inte görs rätt. Jag har själv sett fattigdomen i kambodja och uppskattade denna bok och allt författaren har gjort och gör något otroligt. Alla som åker på semester någonstans i världen borde ta del av informationen i denna bok.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Joanie

    4.5 stars

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan Leeming

    Tara is such an incredible woman, and her work with the Cambodian Children's Trust is so inspirational... This book is a must-read for anyone who wants to make an impact on the world! Tara is such an incredible woman, and her work with the Cambodian Children's Trust is so inspirational... This book is a must-read for anyone who wants to make an impact on the world!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Kamala

    Informative and easy to read This was a moving and personal account about an important issue facing the world today. Draws you in and educates you.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Polina Howe

    Wow!!! Just wow! Where do i begin with this book? This is the best and most influential book I read in years. It's written in an amazing style, very easy and accessible. But most importantly, it really really open my eyes on a lot of issues: on voluntourism, charities and institutional child care. It's honestly a must read for everyone. If you are considering travelling through Asia, or any country really, donating to a charity or just interested about the world around you, this book is for you. An Wow!!! Just wow! Where do i begin with this book? This is the best and most influential book I read in years. It's written in an amazing style, very easy and accessible. But most importantly, it really really open my eyes on a lot of issues: on voluntourism, charities and institutional child care. It's honestly a must read for everyone. If you are considering travelling through Asia, or any country really, donating to a charity or just interested about the world around you, this book is for you. And Tara, you are a brave and amazing woman. Admitting your mistakes is a hard thing to do. But you were so open about it, and the best thing you learned so much and achieved so so much. The world needs more humans like you. Read this book, it's time well spent.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Sara Vukicevic

    This is not only an incredibly written memoir it is incredibly important. It's honest, raw and insightful. I had the wonderful opportunity of meeting Tara while in Cambodia and she is the most professional yet caring individual I have ever met. It takes guts to learn what she did and make the mistakes she did, yet then to share them with the world. Thanks Tara! This is not only an incredibly written memoir it is incredibly important. It's honest, raw and insightful. I had the wonderful opportunity of meeting Tara while in Cambodia and she is the most professional yet caring individual I have ever met. It takes guts to learn what she did and make the mistakes she did, yet then to share them with the world. Thanks Tara!

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jordan Webber

    A really riveting read about NGOs in developing states, corruption, residential care, cross cultural solutions, ethical consent, power dynamics,!how even well intentioned donations and volunteers are making the problem worse, and the steps we can take in the right directions to avoid/reduce these issues

  16. 4 out of 5

    Fiona Morris

    So honestly written and inspiring. I read this after watching Tara’s TEdX talk and I was worried it would just be the same thing but longer, however, it absolutely wasn’t! If you have ever visited or considered visiting or helping an orphanage or even if you just live on planet Earth you need to read this book and use it to influence change

  17. 5 out of 5

    Belinda

    Loved this book!!! It was so interesting and brave of her to start something she had no experience or knowledge in. Son parts made you laugh, cry and totally feel as if you wanted to do something to help

  18. 5 out of 5

    Yvonne

    An easy to read account of a young woman's story of remarkable courage in starting an orphanage in Cambodia, and her greater courage in changing direction when she came to understand that it was not the best way to be of help. A lot of food for thought. An easy to read account of a young woman's story of remarkable courage in starting an orphanage in Cambodia, and her greater courage in changing direction when she came to understand that it was not the best way to be of help. A lot of food for thought.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Julie Boulton

    good read. amazing story.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Ashleigh

    Amazing

  21. 4 out of 5

    Sonja

    Such a good book! Taras story was so interesting and informational. I really liked that she admitted all the things she did wrong. I am really glad I picked it up.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Nadia

    No offence and I’ll try to be mild. Spoiled Inner City girl with a penchant for horse riding and self-commiseration travels to Cambodia, receive $25,000 from gramma and opens an orphanage without knowing what attachment theory is, or the basics of cultural competency. The language is atrocious, too. I’ve suffered reading this book which was little more than the writer’s ego trip for more than 350 pages 🙄

  23. 4 out of 5

    Itamar Junior

    What a story. Hats off to Tara, persistence that edges stubbornness. It was interesting to have a glance at what goes through the head of someone who moves from a 1st World country, where money was no issue and safety was a given, to a place that lacked everything in order to help children in need.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Lucy Fyffe

    Interesting insight into the orphanage system in Cambodia

  25. 4 out of 5

    Melissa

  26. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

  27. 4 out of 5

    Fiona

  28. 5 out of 5

    Brittany

  29. 4 out of 5

    Anthony

  30. 5 out of 5

    Lauren

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