Take pens for children

Mar 7th, 2004, 09:14 AM
Original Poster
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Take pens for children

On our recent trip, we were asked many times by Egyptian children for writing pens. Apparently this is all the rage. Unfortunately I only had two with me.
JayeB is offline  
Mar 7th, 2004, 01:17 PM
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We heard this before we went 3 years ago - so stocked up on pens. No one wanted them. They would take anything, but especially wanted the candy my kids had with them.

I am conflicted on this issue - people have said to give to kids on the street promotes street begging, second class citizens, etc. We dealt with it by using small items as part of barter and negotiation for goods. My husband traded a jar of peanut butter for a small statue (that we never would have actually paid money for - probably made in some other country).
gail is offline  
Mar 7th, 2004, 01:45 PM
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I am also conflicted on this issue, especially after reading the following thread:

Kavey is offline  
Mar 7th, 2004, 06:45 PM
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We were asked by both children and adults for pens a few times while we were in Egypt a few months ago. I remember that this happens most where the Nile boats docks. Children, store keepers etc would ask us every time we embark or disembark our boat.

On one occasion while my wife's handbag was being x-ray prior to going into a museum, the guard stop us and asked us to look at the screen. He pointed to my wife's pen and asked if he could have it!

Do bring some extra pens and lots of small change. Egyptian monetary notes are old and extremely dirty so bring lots of $1 notes instead.

Enjoy Egypt - great holiday!
Hanuman is offline  
Mar 8th, 2004, 01:54 AM
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Kavey, thanks so much for that link!!!

I am conflicted on this issue as well.

The first time I went to Africa, I gave my porter my sleeping bag after a climb. The head guide later confided that he was probably beaten up by the other porters for receiving such a gift. That thought did not even cross my mind.

Interestingly enough, when I travel with my local African friends, they will give out a few shillings to folks (*to buy your wife some sugar*), but only if they have provided a service such as giving us directions.

And we always stop to buy the junky jewelry and souvenirs sold on the blanket by the side of the road. And we do not haggle very hard over the price.

I just finished Paul Theroux * Dark Star Safari* and he suggested that foreign aid and charitable organizations have done much more harm than good for African countries. I think there is truth to this.

I would love to hear others thoughts on this topic.
Queenie is offline  
Mar 8th, 2004, 05:03 AM
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When we went to Tanzania, the local safari company that we used came out very strongly against giving pens, candy, etc to the children. Their feeling was that it promoted begging, and being in their country, I felt it was best to follow their advice.

However, we did visit a school, and we were able to give pens to one of the teachers, so that she could pass them out to whomever needed them.
teresaandgreg is offline  
Mar 8th, 2004, 05:08 AM
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One of my fondest memories from my recent trip to Peru was when a noticed two young boys staring at my pen as I made an entry in my journal. Since it was the only pen I had, I offered to buy them both a pen if they could take me to a stationary store - which they did. They picked out two pens, and when I presented them to the boys it was as it I had given them World Series tickets.
I don't yet know about Egypt (I'm going in April) but in Peru kids need school supplies and are very grateful to get them.
After that experience I bought two boxes of pens, and then later discovered an additonal value - if you give a pen to a young tout, they stop bothering you.
ncanavan is offline  
Mar 8th, 2004, 05:34 AM
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When we were in Egypt, there were a group of children who did ask for pens (which we did have to distribute), but I noticed an older woman nearby - maybe their mother - who wanted us to give her the pens. This we would not do, as we just knew she would try to sell them. It took a bit or slick work, but we did manage to give them direct to the children. Whether the mother took them from the kids, we had no way of knowing, but we did the best we could.

The one thing I will not give children in any country would be candy or sweets of any kind, as it's unlikely any of them have access to a dentist.

Pens, pencils, small note books, and picture story books are good items to bring - be sure they get into the hands of the children, or given at a school for a teacher to distrbute.
Mar 8th, 2004, 12:46 PM
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Regarding Queenie's comments on not haggling too much on prices - that had me concerned in Egypt, as well. While acknowledging that this is the custom and expectation, I was comfortable doing this in a shop where the amount of purchase was significant - but the idea of haggling from a street vendor over the equivalent of a dollar or so just did not feel right. I made an exception for the kid trying to sell me stuffed camels "1 American dollar each or 3 for 5 American dollars" - his math seemed a little off!

Also, we enjoyed bargaining at Esna Locks - kids in leaky rowboats would through blankets and other stuff we did not want to top deck of Nile cruiser - we would then scream negotiations back and forth and eventually throw down money in film cannister or throw back the item. I have no idea how they kept track of all that stuff and what they would do if someone tried to scam them.
We did buy a blanket just as a memory of the experience - for some reason I felt OK bargaining there.
gail is offline  
Mar 8th, 2004, 12:57 PM
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When we were trekking in Nepal the villagers wanted, and needed, first aid supplies. We carried neosporin and bandaids in our pockets to treat people as we walked through their villages. Toothbrushes and toothpaste was also welcomed. Probably the same the world over.
twoaussies is offline  
Mar 9th, 2004, 05:32 AM
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I was in Egypt in Jan 04 and the only place we ran saw children was at Esna Temple on a school field trip and they did not ask for anything but really enjoyed having their photos taken.
MauiMaui is offline  
Mar 9th, 2004, 08:17 AM
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ncanavan - I will be in Egypt in April also with Maupintour. Will you be with a tour group?
Louise is offline  
Mar 9th, 2004, 12:19 PM
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My wife and I will be going it on our own (Cairo, Luxor, Sharm, 4/13-4/26). It's more work, and probably more money, but we prefer the extra freedom of movement.
ncanavan is offline  
Mar 9th, 2004, 12:28 PM
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ncanavan - maybe our paths will cross. I'm leaving on the 13th also but return the 29th. Hope you have a great time.
Louise is offline  
Mar 10th, 2004, 05:02 AM
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We brought pens and pencils with us to Kenya and Tanzania and overall I regret it. In Kenya on the road leading towards the Mara there was a surprising amount of begging. So much so that it made me uncomfortable when we stopped at a Maasai village. It was just as bad on the recently paved road between Manyara and Ngorongoro Crater. We stopped for one moment to take a photo of the landscape and five children swarmed our car with hands outstretched. On the last day of our trip I strongly resisted a visit to a Maasai village because of these instances, but I was blown away by the experience in a positive way. Everyone was so wonderful and unassuming, and even though they had unloaded their blankets with items for sale, we spent most of our time talking with them rather than buying their crafts, which they encouraged. I ended up giving the pencils and pens to our guide and requested that he provide them to the school that had just been built, rather than handing them out and felt much better about it in the longrun. I couldn't see what good it would have done to pass them out in the crowd.
hlphillips2 is offline  
Mar 12th, 2004, 07:41 PM
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Just a note to say that I found a way contribute by sending a large box of clothing to the day care center/pre-school at Londolozi after returning to the U.S. The teacher, Miss Leta, is just a wonderful person and the children were adorable. They captured a piece of my heart.
girlpolo33 is offline  
Mar 13th, 2004, 05:29 AM
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Like hlphillips - when in Tanzania, we too gave our pens, pencils, etc. to our guide to bring to his son's school. Unlike when we were in Kenya and always saw children along the roads and small strip-mall and souvenir stands, where we could give out our items - its wasn't the same in Tanzania. So our items went to our guide.

And like girlpolo33, friends upon return home from their time in Zambia, sent clothing to the local school, where they had met the children and teachers. The package did get to them and a wonderful thank-you note was received by our friends.
May 10th, 2004, 11:58 AM
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One bit more from the great pen debate.
I just returned from Egypt and gave away twenty-four pens, one each to anyone who asked. Twelve of twenty-four went to adults, and most of those to security guards!
ncanavan is offline  
May 10th, 2004, 11:49 PM
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Actually, this is a good thing of u all. There r lots of children here in Egypt who deserve these small presents and at the same time the issue that it's a present from a nother country makes parents also happy as well as their children.. I was with an English couple in Cairo a month ago.. they asked me to stop the taxi and called for 2 children and gave them about 20 pens..I told them it's a very good deed but it would be better to distribute this to more children
masrawy is offline  
May 11th, 2004, 04:33 AM
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It's a hard one. But I think the bottom line is to give to individuals directly only if they have helped you in some way and there is no other way to say thank you - else give to the local school. I do remember a sign at "reception" (a rather grand word for this particular establishment, perfect though it was) at Cape Maclear, which said "please don't give pens to our children as it encourages begging - leave a donation in the box for the school". Sometime during that visit I went for a walk and met a young boy who sort of showed me around - not really necessary - but he was a bright kid and good company. We ended at his house. I really wanted to give him something to say thank you. I was rescued from the big dilemma when his mother came out and I gave the pen to her. So she could pass it on to him at a time of her choosing.
alice13 is offline  

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