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Laos forum

Gifts for local peolple

Posted by KAALIE on 15/10/2006 at 19:36


We leave 27th of Oct to Laos and CAmbodja.
What can we bring for local people? soap, balpoints, t-shirts...??? Please give us some advise.



#1 KAALIE has been a member since 21/9/2006. Posts: 2

Posted by somtam2000 on 15/10/2006 at 19:58 admin

Hi K&L,

Welcome to Travelfish!

It's a tricky question. I'd lean towards contacting a group who is doing work in-country and ask them what they want/need according to areas you're interested in -- for example schools/orphenages/handicapped people etc.

In my opinion you're far better off giving to an organisation rather than individuals as with the latter it often encourages begging and organisations tend to do a better job distributing goods to those who really need them.

#2 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 8,099

Posted by exacto on 16/10/2006 at 10:14

Hi K&L,

I like Somtam's idea of giving to organizations too as a means of helping more people in a sustainable way. However, if you are looking to make a connection with local folks and give a special or lasting thank you to someone, we've had good luck handing out something small or special from our home town. On our recent trip, we handed out postcards with pictures of our lovely native Kanab, Utah. Also, rather than giving out money, we bought cokes or snacks or something fun like that for folks and particularly kids. I have to agree with Somtam that it can encourage begging, but at the same time, it was difficult just to ignore these folks and handing out something fun that they might not otherwise afford seemed to please everyone and add an element of fun.

If this is something you really enjoy doing, then a polaroid or other camera that prints the picture immediately is great fun. That's a bit expensive, but people have always been delighted when I hand them a pic of them or of us together.

Have a great trip. Cheers.

#3 exacto has been a member since 12/2/2006. Location: United States. Posts: 2,848

Posted by marianwarren on 16/10/2006 at 17:17


In India I handed out food rather than money, which sorted out very quickly who was actually hungry and who only wanted money. When I travel I take along kangaroo stick pins which doesn't alleviate poverty or a country's socio/economic problems but does give a cultural momento without changing their culture (unless they're worth big bucks on the black market which I very much doubt). I dislike that everywhere I go I see the same corporate logos ... if I wanted to see Nike, Coke and Pepsi etc. everywhere I went, especially on T-shirts, I would stay at home.

Also - think it was advice from Somtam - reward good service to those working rather than beggars ... obviously schools, orphanages & disabled are in a separate category.

Travel well


#4 marianwarren has been a member since 12/3/2006. Posts: 270

Posted by marklatham on 16/10/2006 at 17:57

In australia in the two dollar shops one can buy a bag of about twenty koala bear keyrings-the girls love em.
made in china of course.

#5 marklatham has been a member since 25/6/2006. Posts: 18

Posted by marianwarren on 16/10/2006 at 19:22

Hi Mark

Maybe I'm a sucker but I paid AU$ 7 for 10 roo's made in oz



#6 marianwarren has been a member since 12/3/2006. Posts: 270

Posted by somsai on 25/10/2006 at 10:14

Dear Marrianwarren and Exacto. The Lao government on behalf of the Lao people kindly requests that you do not hand out gifts to children as it encourages begging and that you give to an established organization or village elder instead.

The reasons are more than just to avoid begging. If you really care about the people you see in your travels make the effort to donate to a the village headman or one of the many do good organisations working in Laos. If your only motivation is your own feelings please reconsider. Inappropriate gifts obviously includes trinkets and food. I strongly recommend that you take a look at the website of the Lao National Tourism Authority. Besides some suggestions to avoid cultural faux pas it includes insights on much of the country.

Sorry for the lecture, consider the children.




#7 somsai has been a member since 1/3/2006. Location: United States. Posts: 566

Posted by marianwarren on 25/10/2006 at 11:05

Dear Somtai

Thank you for the advice, I don't mind being lectured if I'm making a faux pas. Have looked at the website and will utilise the information.

Thanks again


#8 marianwarren has been a member since 12/3/2006. Posts: 270

Posted by wanderingcat on 11/1/2007 at 10:21

could try giving books from BigBrotherMouse http://www.bigbrothermouse.com/volunteer.html to a local teacher, school or library.

unlike material things, knowledge is a gift that will not diminish when the original recipient shares it with many others.

can lend your Lonely Planet (& paper & pen) to interested locals who've studied a little English, for them to copy down the English phrases & accompanying Lao translations (in Lao script) from the Language section. once loaned mine to a young guy overnight & arranged to get it back the next morning at the bus station.

Akha hilltribe villagers in Thailand were delighted to receive postcards of people from the different subgroups of Akha in Lao (not found in Thailand). they spent quite a bit of time discussing the differences in headdress & clothing design! but please do not buy postcards with photos that they might find offensive.

#9 wanderingcat has been a member since 21/10/2006. Posts: 730

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