Pens and Candy


Loads of Kilimanjaro climbers and safari people plan some sort of goodwill when they visit Tanzania. Since Tanzania is one of the poorest countries in the world, many people want to do something special – like bring gifts for the people.

Over the years, my perspective of gifts has changed. Given the onslaught of tourists on Mt. Kilimanjaro and in places like Marangu and Arusha, thousands of children have been showered with tons of gifts – everything from candy, clothes, pictures, pens, food, school fees, etc. While this is good in some instances, many of these children and people have grown a bit tainted and some even expect a gift and demand it.

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In places like Marangu, you will have hundreds of children that will approach you and ask for candy or a pen. While it’s only a tiny bit of money from Western standards, it has created a society that is dependent upon gifts. Many parents tell their children to go out and beg. Many of these children follow you around and just ask for things.

In one instance, I saw a tourist pull out about 20 piece of candy from his pocket near a school, within about 2 minutes, about 100 children where trying to get 20 pieces of candy. When the candy was all gone, the children were chasing each other and fighting over it. It was horrible.

If you do want to bring something to Tanzania, and contribute it, give it to the local headmaster or to an orphanage, or even to one of the many NGOs that dot the community. Be very explict, even with adults, that is for the children or for the person is need, and is not to be sold.