Writing paper in
I note that one Journeywoman suggested giving pens and
pencils to begging children. I was told that sometimes
these are asked for so they can be sold. In less developed
areas, I carry pencils and small pencil sharpeners,
but take them to schools and give them to the teachers
or headmaster. Note, as well, that writing paper is
frequently in very short supply, so small notepads are
another item welcomed in schools, as is chalk (but chalk
is heavy to carry). I also take world maps to give to
school principals. They have been very well received.
I have often found that children are happy just to
be smiled at and acknowledged unless they are already
"hard-core" beggars. The Journeywoman suggestion
of the rubber stamp designs on children's hands is quite
inventive and, I would think, fun for the children.
||My Guatamalan teacher
I agree that gifts should be given out to children for
appropriate service or special deeds - not because they
are begging on the streets. My Spanish language instructor
in Quetzaltenango, Guatamala, informed me that giving
gifts or money to street children encourages that lifestyle.
Instead, it was suggested that I seek out an institution,
such as a Red Cross equivalent, that provides meals or
services to street kids and make a donation.
||Let's all eat together...
I also agree that handing out gifts to all children is
not good practice. Definitely do it where you have received
hospitality at a home, or when a child has particularly
helped you find your way or something you want. My practice
on occasions was to buy food for a child, or children,
and sit and eat with them. Everyone got something from
the encounter then.
Lorraine, Brisbane, Australia
||Don't create beggars...
I feel that tourists should never give things to children
-- not candy, gum (obviously a bad idea due to dental
hygine issues), pencils or pens. What it means is that
we are helping to create beggars! It's hard to resist
those adorable faces, but I think that tourists to out-of-the-way
places should do their best not to ruin them! One time
when I was in Siberia an older woman started berating
our group saying that by giving the children pens (which
we'd been doing) we were turning their children into beggars.
She also made a really interesting point, that we were
undermining the authority of the parents who were not
able to give their children these things. Those of us
in that group resolved not to contribute to the problem,
but to consider bringing items (note pads, pens, etc.)
to give to the adults -- school teachers, parents, church
organization groups, and so forth. Believe me, once you've
been to third world countries where tourism is common
and have been surrounded by clinging, begging, yelling
children, you can see the benefits of not contributing
to the problem.
Laurie, Palo Alto, USA
||Hand out toothbrushes...
Since I used to work in a dental office, and my Doctor
was very generous, I would bring boxes of toothbrushes
to give to children whenever I travelled. It was novel
Kathleen, Tuscon, USA
||Ignore them for their
Never give anything to child beggars unless you want them
staying on the streets for their rest of their lives.
Their parents or the people controlling them think the
child beggars are profitable and don't let them go to
school. Ignore these children, run as fast as you can,
although it seems a littel bit cruel and makes your hearts
uncomfortable. Approach a local charity organization if
you really want to help them out.
||Coins in Egypt...
When I was travelling through Egypt I experienced the
same situation ...
kids were begging for pens, etc. But I gave small coins
of the local currency instead and there was no fight among
the kids. Besides, you never have enough pens with you.
Dr. Gudrun, Basel, Switzerland
||Swarmed by children...
I know some women hand out small bottles of shampoo. I
can't imagine carrying that many small bottles of shampoo
around India! It isn't necessary to give anything to the
children and giving to some of them can lead to you being
surrounded by swarms - it happened to me. Westerners may
feel bad not giving anything, but it isn't really necessary.
When confronted by children or swamis begging, I usually
just gave each one a very small coin and then walked away
quickly. In one city I was rescued by a local shopkeeper
who shooed away the horde of persistent children and scolded
me for giving them anything.
||Beggars are a nuisance...
Do not give anything to beggars. Ever. Anywhere. Only
help persons that you know directly. If you want to help
the poor in a certain country, give money to an organization
that helps them. Children have no business hanging around
foreigners, they should be at school or at home and their
parents should teach them to stay away from strange adults.
If you give money to beggars they will probably not be
able to keep it for themself but be forced to hand it
over to some criminals who control the neighbourhood.
It is not unthinkable that in a very poor country even
such simple items as ballpoint pens are going to end up
somewhere other than the classroom where the beggar child
studies. Besides, beggars are a nuisance to all of us
who travel. They should not be encouraged.
While I was in Egypt about 4 years ago I wish I had taken
some McDonald's Happy Meal toys . I believe the kids would
have loved that.
||Donate to a local
I agree that random gifts should not be handed out to
begging children. Although it SEEMS like a nice thing
to do, it only distances you further as the rich Western
tourist. If in doubt, always ask someone from that country
their opinion on the subject. I feel that it is much better
to spend your time and money donating to a local church
or charity and therefore not contributing to the culture
of begging. Of course, giving a small gift to a child
or family who has helped you in some way is always a nice
Candy rots teeth...
About giving small lollypops to children who beg, DON'T!
Dental care is very scarce in developing countries.
Innocent seeming candy (unless sugar-free) will rot
children's teeth, causing pain and mouth disease and
usually requiring the tooth be pulled (without painkillers).
If they don't get dental care, the infections can spread.
The problem of travellers' candy causing cavities is
so bad that a service providing free dental care from
volunteer dentists in well-touristed areas has begun.
Please don't give candy to children while travelling!
Julie, Hamamatsu-shi, Japan
Please, please do not give ballpoints or balloons to children
in developing countries! Children will fight over them
(you can never bring enough) and both items pollute. Very
often the most extroverted or strongest children end up
with something and the shy child is left behind with nothing.It
also gets children used to systematically ask for things.
One of my friends travelling alone in Asia was cornered
in a side street by a crowd of about 50 to 60 very insistent
children and she found the experience rather unsettling...
If you want to bring pens, pencils ( a better choice in
my opinion) or small pads, find a school teacher you can
give them to. This is a much better use of limited resources.
Or contribute to an organization like UNICEF. It's like
at home. It is always better to give money to the shelter
than to give money to the panhandler...
P.S. I always read your wonderful journal with great interest.
Louise , a passionate traveller
(37 years of travelling) from Ottawa
words on charity...
have and not to give is often worse than to steal.
(Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach, 1893)
I don't want you to give
me your surplus. I want you to give with personal deprivation.
(Mother Teresa, 1987)
You have no idea, sir,
how difficult it is to be the victim of benevolence.
(Jane Aiken Hodge, 1961)
Charity degrades those
who receive it and hardens those who dispense it.
(George Sand, 1842)