Help spread the word! If you like the idea in this article, please send it to world-travelin’-friends, tweet or FB it, and mention it to your blog’s readers. The more people who hear, the more rice we can donate!
After the incredible poverty that I witnessed in places like Thailand and Cambodia, I tried to think of some simple way that I (and others) could donate to help these poor people.
You should not give money to beggars in poor countries; this promotes begging instead of education and hard work. A good way to help would be to volunteer for several months in a small community. But let’s face it, most of us are not in a position (family, job, and mindset-wise) to do this.
There are charities where one can donate, and some of them are even reliable, using only a small portion of your donation to administrate their charity group. But don’t donate to any charities while you’re in that poor country, unless you do your homework – many are fake!
My idea, which I came up with on the last day of my Cambodia trip, is simple.
Donate rice in person.
When visiting a poverty-stricken country: budget as much cash as you’d like, buy rice, and take it to some poor families. Keep in mind that $10 USD will buy 20kg (44 lbs) of good rice in Cambodia, and you can only transport so much at once. For one or two people in a tuk-tuk, 20kg is a good amount.
With the money saved on buying rice, the staple of life in Asia, the families you help will be able to buy their choice of nourishing foods (for example, milk) for their children. Or they can save up for physical improvements to their home, such as buying materials to patch a leaky roof during monsoon season.
If you can afford it, do small rice runs several times throughout your trip. $12, three times spread out over a week’s vacation, will be over 150 pounds of rice. Given to six families, that’s a real difference. Done by a hundred people, or a thousand people – you get the idea.
Logistics to donate rice in person:
I bought my rice at the Old Market in Siem Reap, scooped out into plastic bags and weighed on an ancient scale. Westernized stores might have higher prices = less bang for the buck, but you can check around.
If you find a nice tuk-tuk driver, just ask him to drive through a rural area on the way back to your hotel. Unless you really trust the guy, I wouldn’t necessarily ask him to find a poor family for you, because you might end up giving the rice to his family.
Just make your own decision as you drive through the countryside. The tinier the shack or tent, and the less-rainproof the roof, the more in need that family probably is.
I’d say the floating village on Tonle Sap Lake in Cambodia is a good place for this kind of donation. Regardless of where you donate, if you follow this very personal method, you can be sure that 100% of your donation goes directly to the bellies of a poor, rural family – no overhead, no skimming, and no fraud.
No one can use your “dollars for the orphans” to buy beer and smokes.
And best of all, you get to see a warm smile of surprise and gratitude, up close and personal. You’ve just turned one tough month out of a tough life into a month of plenty, for the cost of two or three cocktails in your hotel’s $3-happy-hour bar.
It’s one moment of your “low-cost-country” vacation that you’ll never forget.
Please try it out – DONATE RICE IN PERSON! And spread the word…
If you’ve made the effort and donated rice in person, please let me know by a comment or by email. I’ll make a list of names here for people who have donated, or “10 kg by anonymous” if you prefer.