As the ubiquitous lights & displays for the Holiday Season begin, many also think of gift giving. Donating to foster growth & empower communities is the far more effective manner in which to help. As the saying goes, “Give a man a fish…” so it goes with the many small impoverished communities in the Andes mountain regions and the rain forest areas. Here’s how to really support those in need:
A traveler’s guide to responsible gift-giving in Peru
I recently read a great article from Peru This Week entitled, “A traveler’s guide to responsible gift-giving in Peru.” It was dead on as far as not just giving money or gifts randomly, but rather either to have a relationship or give to an organization that works to serve the greater community.
From Peru This Week:
Many travelers feel motivated to help the people and communities they encounter on their trips to Peru. Some may go on a shopping spree to buy gifts to bring and other may orchestrate a clothing drive. But these acts of kindness, although done with the best intentions, may not actually be the best ways to help out.
Despite a long period of economic growth and the country’s growing popularity among international tourists, Peru is still a developing nation and many of its rural communities continue to live in notable poverty. According to stats released by the World Bank, the rural poverty rate of Peru is 18% (2012), though other sources estimate it may be as high as 50%.
With the imminent need so apparent, many travelers often ask, “What gifts can I bring to Peru?” The answer to this question is not simple and sheds light on complex issues that underline responsible gift-giving.
The ultimate goal of responsible gift-giving is to give in a way that is sustainable and empowers local communities in the long-run. Undoubtedly, the best way to learn what items are most useful and how you can give back in a mutually beneficial manner is to work with a locally-based non-profit group or organization.
Handing out cash and gifts at random, particularly in regions like Cusco and the Sacred Valley that experience a lot of tourism, can perpetuate levels of dependency which actually result in more harm than good. But this isn’t to say that you shouldn’t show your appreciation to the tour guides, hotel staff, waitresses, and trekking teams whose hard work goes a long way in making your vacation extra special. Tipping in Peru is respectable practice and a great way to show your gratitude.
Full article here.
Really Want to Help? Here’s how…
What helps these small rural communities most is giving to improve productivity or knowledge. Only by becoming independent & self supporting can these impoverished farmers maintain sustainability yet increase their earnings.
An investment for the general well being can be very useful. For example, in the cacao (cocoa) producing regions extra fermenting boxes, solar drying tents, and dry storage areas will be utilized by the entire community. The quality of the finished chocolate product is considerably improved, solely by using less rustic methods (such as ground drying etc.) that can lead to contamination or loss of quality.
By producing high quality agricultural or textile goods, the value is increased and this added income which is sorely needed can be reinvested and a formerly poor village can have at least enough for the basics.
Each area will have its own special needs, so it’s wise to make an effort to meet the people face to face. The culture of a handshake & a personal relationship is very important in Peru (and Latin America in general.)
Ask what the primary industry is, what methods are being used, and what could help improve productivity. Perhaps providing funding to an engineer (agricultural, mechanical) to assist the community for several weeks/months could be very effective. In any case, you’ll want to know the people involved at least at a minimal level.
If you are unable to get to a “grass roots” type of relationship, seek out the organizations that are involved at the small community level, and find out what they are using the donated funds for. Choose carefully, not all are the same. Some nonprofits will have high “management” expenses. While attracting good people is essential to success, what the small communities need are maximum investment in the workers and families themselves, not outside entities.
Beyond targeted charitable donations, supporting products that are produced sustainably by small growers & cooperatives in your regular buying is one way to continue to give back to the “little guy” wherever they may be.
Give responsibly this Holiday Season.
© Ben Gangloff 2014
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