But how do you choose who to give to? Is one beggar more in need that the next? Do you say to yourself, “I will give to the first 5 and then no more for the rest of the day”?
As hard as it is to say no to those desperate pleas, I do think there are better ways to distribute some of your wealth to those in need when on your holiday.
Most developing countries have a variety of fair-trade outlets in the bigger centres that sell handicrafts and clothing made by local artisans. They are, more often than not, backed by not-for-profit organisations that help establish small start-up businesses in local communities, enabling these products to be produced. This process creates a revenue stream for those who would not normally have one as well as ensuring the artisans are fairly compensated for their work
It’s easy to search up on the web where these outlets are before you even visit the country – just type in search words such as ‘Fair trade outlet (then name of region you are visiting)’ or ask the locals themselves when you arrive. Travel guides such as Lonely Planet and Rough Guide also normally list them in their publications.
One great example of a successful fair-trade outlet is Healing the Wounded Heart Shop in Hue, Vietnam. This boutique store run by disabled youth artisans sells goods made from recycled materials, with all proceeds from the sales going towards helping fund heart surgeries for people born with congenital heart disease in Central Vietnam. In addition, the disabled artisans themselves are guaranteed fair salaries and full medical insurance.
The AHA Fair Trade Village in Siem Reap, Cambodia, is another excellent example of fair-trade in action. This open marketplace is fully owned, managed and supplied by local Cambodian people operating as a non-for-profit organization. Shopping for authentic handicrafts within the AHA Fair Trade Village directly impacts and supports the rural communities of Siem Reap as all profits made go straight back to the artisans and the local community.
However, if shopping is not your thing, there are still many other ways of making sure your money gets distributed evenly throughout the region.
Stay in local guest houses rather than hotel chains. As well as gaining a more authentic experience, you will be contributing directly to that family’s income.
If using guides to help you travel, try to get different guides for each section of your itinerary rather than one guide for the whole lot – even if booking through a travel agent you can request that this is the case. And make sure that the agent is part of a reputable sustainable tourism program so that you know that what you are booking is going to have a positive impact on the region.
Eat out! Don’t be afraid to eat from the street vendors. Not only will you sample delicious dishes that have been freshly prepared in front of you, you will also be helping those vendors with their income stream.
If buying local produce, head to the market place or purchase from a street vendor rather than a supermarket. It is often the growers themselves who are doing the selling, so your cash will definitely end up in the right pocket.
And lastly, distributing out pens, books and other gifts to kids you meet doesn’t always have the desired effect. As well as encouraging the begging ethos, many times these useful commodities end up sitting in pride of place in the home, never getting used. You are far better off taking time to visit a local school or orphanage and asking the staff what they need there. If you don’t have the items with you (lugging 20 text books around in your backpack might not be your thing!) you can then purchase the items at the local store and deliver them in person, knowing that the items are going to make a real positive difference to that community.
By following these basic tips you will still be able to give to those in need, but in a positive, sustainable way.