By Maryann Fernandez
I often hear of tourists bringing pencils, candy, and other small “gifts” to give to children they encounter during their visit to a developing country. I would like to offer an alternative to those who would like to bring a smile to a local child’s face while having some satisfaction that you had some level of impact.
As you make your way through the country, ask several locals about a community-based organization that successfully helps kids. (Beware of organizations that are overly marketed to tourists). See if you can arrange a visit and ask the administrators directly about the organization’s current needs/priorities (not what you think they need). Using that information, you can decide how you want to act: making a donation or maybe purchasing the needed items locally which supports the local economy.
If you want to make your contribution more specific, you can ask if there is a particular family or child that you can help. Many times children drop out of school because their family can no longer afford school fees (which in many countries can be under $100 a year). When visiting a local non-governmental organization in Kenya, the local team urged a thin and fragile woman to tell me about her daughter who is HIV+. She had no money to buy fruits which the doctor recommended. I gave her enough money to buy fruits for a few weeks.
These simple gestures can not only be gratifying, but can provide you with a look inside the local community and culture.
Maryann Fernandez leads an organization, Philanthropy Indaba, which develops customized philanthropic journeys and service opportunities for individuals and families. Periodically, Maryann provides the readers of FarewellTravels.com with ideas on how to take action and make a difference when traveling to developing countries.