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Begging Children -- what do we do?

Understanding that women travellers can benefit from each other's experiences, we recently posted a survey question in our travel tip section. We wanted to know:

Should we hand out gifts to begging children in Developing Countries? Are we helping or hindering these little people?

Your responses gave us much food for thought. We've reprinted a sampling of the opinions we received. Some you will agree with, others you'll reject. Hopefully sharing these answers will add to each of our travel smarts.

P.S. Have a friend who's travelling to a developing country? Please tell her about this article.


She Meets Children in Tibet...
If you meet children in rural Tibet who may extend their hand to you as if asking for candy or money, they are actually asking for pens or pencils. In this part of the world, due to the economic situation, most young people are not able to afford the utensils for learning. By carrying some writing utensils to give away, you are helping them get one of the greatest gifts which western children often take for granted -- an education.
Karolina Pek, Shanghai, China
One happy little heart...
It is my opinion that gifts, if you have them, should be given to these poor children. Even if they fight over it, someone in the group will come out with the gift and will benefit from your generosity. This way, one little heart was made happy.
Mildred Lloyd, USA
Don't get involved...
I know this is a really awful thing to say but I think it is best just not to get involved and just move on. Leave the gift giving to someone else. India is full of beggars and you will find them all over the place. If you give something to one, you will probably feel obliged (and be expected) to give something to everyone else.
Nadia Khodya, Australia
It's discouraged in Mexico...
Several places in Mexico even have signs asking that tourists do NOT give money or gifts to begging children. They're trying to encourage them to stay in school and off the street. Gifting to begging children in several Asian counties has caused a lot of fights and I remember reading of a riot that started that way. Instead I do give to organized charities and missionaries.
A guy in the USA (at your site looking up stuff for a girlfriend)
Ed. note: Welcome :-)
Bring paper to India...
I recommend books and paper. We forget that good quality paper and publications can be expensive and inaccessible in rural India. While on an academic tour, my new friends asked for American business textbooks and appreciated gifts of notebooks and writing paper as well.
Susan, Pittsburgh, USA
Little beggars in Nepal...
I recently spent four weeks in Nepal where we were told NOT to succumb to begging children. Some of the beggars do not actually need to beg and only do so because they think they can get free stuff from tourists. The government is trying to outlaw begging and thus discourages tourists from handing out sweets, pens or trinkets. If you'd like to make a contribution to the country, donate pens or books to the local school where you know the items will be put to use instead of sold or squabbled over.
Adeline, Italy
Bananas in Bangladesh...
When I visited Bangladesh 3 weeks ago, we found that buying the children who were begging some food (like bananas), was a great thing. First of all, when travelling to counties like that you have to remember that there are often other people behind those begging children, who take mostly everything the children get (at least when it comes to money). As for buying them food instead of giving them money or things that can be sold, you could enjoy seeing the hungry child eat, and you knew that the "gift" you gave was not passed over to others.
Torunn, Oslo, Norway
Balloons for kids...
Balloons are my travel secret for kids: they're lightweight, healthier than cavity inducing candies, cheap, easy to carry a lot of, and FUN. Nothing will ever erase the memory I have of watching a village of children of the Bushmen of northeastern Namibia dance and sing with a dozen or so of the multi-colored balloons I had on hand. The adults I spoke with were impressed with the thoughtfulness that I had something for each child, and blowing up balloons provided a LOT of amusement. (That's an understatement!)
Amelie, Boston, USA
Give to those kiddies who've helped you...
I have travelled extensively in Nepal and agree with giving gifts only to children who are friends or who have helped you. By randomly passing out pens, pencils, ruppees, shampoo, bubble gum, etc. you are teaching the children to beg and they soon expect to receive things from travellers. I treked the Annapurna Trail in western Nepal and the effect of tourism was very evident by the way the children begged and even were so bold as to hang on to our backpacks if we didn't give them something. When travelling in areas where there were few tourists, the children did not beg. With more people then ever doing adventure travel, it is important to leave the smallest impact as possible so that future generations may enjoy these cultures and countries.
Pam, Colorado, USA
Bring presents when you travel...
When travelling in thirld world countries I usually bring a big bag of mini packets of Planters Peanuts, balloons from the $1 store, Kerr's candy to be given out by the handful (or creatively wrapped in little gift bags of cellophane with ribbon) There is no easy solution if you are confronted with this begging situation and you're ill-prepared. I've handed out goodies on a couple of occasions and have never had a problem with the children and/or tourists getting upset because there was always enough for everybody. Even if it meant breaking the gift packages open so that everybody got something, it worked out just fine.
Alvita, Canada
Gift-giving can be dangerous...
I think that handing gifts out of bus windows could be dangerous. I have access to bright colored pens and take them to distribute when I travel to countries that have a shortage of school supplies. I only hand them out if I have enough for everyone. It is tempting to take sticks of gum as gifts, but in areas where there is no dental care, this is not a good idea.
Jan, USA



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