Begging Children -- what do we do?
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
P.S. Have a friend who's
travelling to a developing country? Please tell her about
||She Meets Children
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
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
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.
||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
Pam, Colorado, USA
||Bring presents when
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
||Gift-giving can be
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.