What about the Children???

Old May 11th, 2007, 07:12 PM
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What about the Children???

I have been packing for my 3-week trek through So. Africa and have been wondering what I should take for the children.Obviously, I cannot go and adopt them all (as everyone has been asking when we talk about our trip!), but I want to take necessities - or wants - which I have heard from various sources were printed t-shirts, pencils, paper, crayons, color books - books, etc. Any help would be appreciated as I do have to deal with luggage weight requirements by airlines. I have been so fortunate to recruit neighbors and friends to donate so I am wondering if the SAA airlines will take more - as a gift to their children - any thoughts on that; or should I just stick to the required weight requirements? I know many many of you have been and as I have not, I am relying on your judgement! Thank you so much, Sam
Old May 11th, 2007, 08:25 PM
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Would it perhaps be more practical to write a check to one of the many charities supporting children? I give to the UN World Food Programme, since I have heard good things about their school lunch program, although as a large bureaucracy, they are far from perfect. I've been told that one good thing about many of these charities is that they buy their products (pencils, etc) locally, supporting local industries.
Another support mechanism that I have been exploring is microlending - where a small (by our standards) loan is made so that someone can buy a few chickens, or a goat or a pig. That person is frequently a woman, and supports many people with the eggs, or a few chickens that come from a few eggs allowed to develop. I don't know much about microlending, but it sounds like a good idea, and helps people become self sufficient.
Please don't get me wrong, I don't want to squash your wonderful desire to bring gifts to people that you meet, that is totally different and there are many threads about gifts, but I think there is help that actually helps, and help that doesn't, if you see what I mean.
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Old May 11th, 2007, 11:16 PM
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I think that your intentions are very admirable an I respect you highly for your intentions however from a prcatical point of view I have a totally different outlook on what you are trying to attain.

As a tourguide I spend the best part of two to three days a week in townships in Cape Town. Many of my visitors, just like you, want to do some good by handing out gifts etc to the kids in the township. I understand their sentiments fully however little do these vistors realise that they are on many occasions doing more harm than good. I say this because all one thinks about is what should you give to the kids and forget to ask the vital question of what happens to the feelings of the kids who dont receive anything purely because the visitor has run out of supplies of pencils or whatever. I have witnesed such heartache amongt the non receivers in the past and it is because of this that I strongly advise my visitors not to hand out anything directly to the kids in townships anymore. Please remember that as a vistor one arrives in a township or village, you hand out the toys etc and then leave. I in turn as a tourguide witness these handouts and two days later walk back into the township and have to hear the woes and share the tears of the kids who did not receive anything. You cannot believe how tough this is to handle. Visitors so easily and understandbly tend to forget about this part of the equation however let me tell you the tears of non receipt are much bigger than the smiles of receipt.

If one has to pass something out to individual children with other kids not knowing about this then I suppose that things would be in order however please bear in mind that bush telegraph has nothing on the speed of how news spreads in community type set ups like villages or townships so rest assured others will find out about your actions.

In summary my feelings are that when it comes to mass handouts unless your have an unlimited supply of handout material rather hand out nothing. What you can do, as has already been suggested is pass the pencils etc on to a schoolteacher to hand out to her class or possibly hand money over to a school pricipal or a person whom you see as being responsible, for the use of many kids simultaneously (always have one or 2 witnesses with you when doing this).

The kids you encounter will all rather enjoy your taking digital pictures of them so that they can obtain instant gratification by seeing these pics other than only some of them finding you handing a gift to a few of them.

A wonderful, but potentially expensive, idea that I have seen is a past visitor of mine do was he arrived in SA with a Polaroid camera and many spools of film. He took instant photos of the kids and gave them the pics. It was an absolute hoot and you have no idea how much impact this had on the kids but to this I might add my visitor was virtually and happilly mauled to take photos of all. I want to reiterate that it was an amazing experience when it happened however many kids missed the boat and did not obtain pictures. For some or other reason this did not bother the kids who were not on the receiving end as they all had such fun sharing the content of the pics. This seemed to work purely because they could share the pics relative to pencils etc that they cannot truly share.

Hope this helps.

Very proudly part of the wonderful nation of South Africa
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Old May 12th, 2007, 04:04 AM
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Hi Almosthere,

You have it there from someone who is in a position to know what they are talking about.

Much better than my saying "don't do it - don't hand out goodies willy nilly".

As Selywn says, it is unfair. It is also, I believe, not a good thing for a child to be just given stuff they want for no good reason (except that it makes you feel good).

Would you do the same in a shopping mall at home? NO. So make your contribution through invisible channels.

The only time I would hand out sweets or pens, etc is if a particular child had done me a particular service - just as I would at home.

Have a wonderful time.

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Old May 12th, 2007, 05:31 AM
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Hi all, you have all given me pause - and I appreciate it as I have never been in this position before. It was suggested to me by a travel agent located in So.Africa to bring gifts such as t-shirts, pencils, etc. but now that I have read and proccesed your thoughts on doing this I must say it makes sense to contribute in another capacity. We will have time to think this one out and I am sure we will come up with an answer that will work for us. Thanks again for your replies; I know I can always count on the fodorites to come through! Because I love to interact with the children I think the polaroid idea is something we can all enjoy. I would never want to hurt a child's feelings; that would not only ruin their day but I'd never forget it either. So thank you Selwyn for your valuable advice; and chimani - I agree too that I would never do this in a mall, so these t's can go to Goodwill and I will take my goodwill to Africa in my heart and hope to find another way to share it. Momliz, I have contributed to organizations run by my church (who will be in the Sudan this month on a medical mission). I just felt I could not show up empty handed but Selwyn had given me a great education on this subject and the perfect solution for us. Thanks again - this is my favorite forum as the info is from the REAL experts! Sam
Old May 12th, 2007, 05:57 AM
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another thing you could do is scout out a school (orphanage, whatever) once you are there, and then mail them a bunch of stuff when you get back. That way you could determine what their needs really are and fill them. Maybe they have pencils, but need a computer. And, you could maybe establish a partnership with a school in SA and one where you live. You might need prior approval from the principal in your home country, but it would be great to get the kids involved. They could write each other and the kids at home could raise some funds, and think about what the SA kids might need. It would be a great experience for some of our kids to think of someone else for a change. You would need to take a bunch of pictures to make it more real for them.
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Old May 12th, 2007, 11:23 AM
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here's one outfit that does micro finance - don't know anything about them except what's on their website: http://www.kiva.org/.
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Old May 12th, 2007, 12:09 PM
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A bit of a different twist to your dilemma. One of our highlights to going to Zambia was visiting a local school outside South Luangwa National Park. We took several hundred pens, pencils plus several deflated soccer balls which we gave to the school administrators to hand out as they saw fit, eg rewards for good grades. Also, we were able to find out information on the school's greater needs. Here's a thread regarding the org. started by a couple of other safari goers who were so moved by the needs of Chiutika School that they started a non-profit organization, Scale Africa.


We received both the satisfaction of seeing the happiness of the children and administrators/teachers as well as perhaps helping a bit toward the greater needs.


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Old May 12th, 2007, 04:14 PM
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Momliz: Great Idea!I will definitely check into the school's participation; and Steeliejim, your ideas as well are well thought out and of great interest. A very sincere thanks to all who took the time to post on this topic I have been struggling with. Two weeks to go! Almosthere; all most heaven! Thanks again and I will definitely post my report upon our return..Sam
Old May 12th, 2007, 05:37 PM
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It would be useful to find out if you can contribute to any programmes run by your tour operators and/or safari concession holders. For example, Linyanti Explorations in the Selinda Reserve in Botswana has (or had...maybe things have changed under the company's new ownership) a foundation which assists with community projects and a special programme for secondary school children. The latter included annual bursaries for conservation education, monthly lectures by guides and camp managers, field trips to Selinda Reserve, Chobe NP and Victoria Falls and so on. I gladly contributed because of the dual purpose of the programme-- to help the people and the environment. I'd be surprised if some other concession holders don't do similar things.

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Old May 12th, 2007, 05:45 PM
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Afrigala: I have learned so much by my posting one little question because of my desire to help out (by doing more than stroking a check though we do plenty of that) believe me. I was advised by a TA to take tees, pencils, crayons etc.so that was my original plan. Now I understand the futility of that; although I have not seen firsthand any of the conditions I have heard about,I can well understand the problems with doing just that. I was relying on my well traveled Africa Specialist travel agent to advise me. Then --I decided to post the question to the real advocates of Africa. I feel now I need to look at all my options...several concessions in which we are staying support local schools...I now think I will wait until we arrive and get a feeling for what WE want to do; in the meantime all the suggestions have been very warmly received. I must add that I did lose my only child in a very unexpected way -so my way of coping with this tragedy is to find what I can do during my travels that will help, enrich or change someone's life. I am blessed that I am able to travel and experience so many cultures. Unfortunately I cannot save the world as I am sure many of you feel. I just wanted to contribute something, no matter how small, to make a child smile, and to make my heart beep. So as I said before-- thank youall for all the advice, suggestions, referrals, and just listening. I am sure the answer will come. I am now putting this to rest. Peace, Samantha
Old May 12th, 2007, 06:23 PM
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Another organization that does microgrants (not loans) to people in East Africa is Village Enterprise Fund (www.villageef.org) Amazing to me that $100 can fund a local business that can support up to 15 people. Check out their website--it's a great organization (one of many)...
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