The standard of living discrepancy between most Africans and tourists
is obvious. Many tourists want to help lessen this gap, often focusing on Kenya’s
children. There are eco-friendly ways to help Kenya’s children, and ways
that do not actually help them.
Please do not randomly hand out candy, pens, books, small toys, etc to children
on the road or beach. Think about it for a minute. Would you encourage your own
children to beg from visitors? Although well-intentioned, handing out goodies
develops a very dependent attitude in young children, who then see begging as
an easy way to get what they want. It also undermines the importance of their
own families, who cannot afford to provide these treats.
Begging also encourages children to be absent from or even drop out of school,
instead looking for tourists who will give them handouts. Some children become
"beach boys" and make a life out of trying to get something from tourists.
After years of this behaviour, some youth even sell their bodies in return for
money and/or gifts.
So how can you help? By working with established community groups. Ask your
travel agent about licensed self-help programmes that need assistance. On safari,
ask to meet the programme project manager directly; when giving donations to the
project, ask for a receipt. If you wish to donate every year, write the manager
before you travel and ask what is actually needed for the project. They may actually
have 100’s of unused pencils in the store; instead they may really need
Thanks to Pamela Collett of Open Learning Exchange, Watamu.