The Harder Side of Travel

Last May when I was in Cambodia there were a lot of things I struggled with. On the grounds of Angkor Wat young kids were instantly drawn to us – not to meet us as foreigners, but to sell us stuff. Hey, lady, you want to buy _____? Somewhat cute at first, it quickly became heartbreaking. Do I buy another piece of cheap touristy crap that I don’t need to “support” this kid? Or do I walk away and completely ignore this child? And if I do help, how am I actually helping? It wasn’t until we arrived in Phnom Penh a few days later that I saw that there were better options. All my guilt from not buying something from everyone I encountered was put at ease when we visited Friends, a wonderful organization working directly with kids from the streets and their communities, and teaching them valuable skills to help them succeed in life. We visited the restaurant and shop. It felt so good eating the delicious food (cookbook info here) the teenage “students” had prepared and served us, purchasing a “brick” with my name to support their programs (click here if you want to help), and buying quality, hand-made souvenirs in the shop that had a deeper meaning and a story behind them. We even returned two more times during our visit because we couldn’t get enough (and they had great smoothies too).

So while we all struggle at times on the best way we can help, it is comforting to know that there are organizations designed to help us. My latest solution for giving gifts to those who already have everything is Kiva. It’s an online micro-lending website that connects people to people around the world, allowing individuals to be empowered to create and build their own businesses. You choose your entrepreneur, receive updates, and get repaid as their business succeeds (you can then put that money to help others). That being said, happy birthday, mom! (Click here to start exploring where you want your loan to go).
{images from my Cambodia flickr set – top: young girls (sans parents) selling goods around grounds of Angkor Wat; middle: hordes of sellers surround [the other] Anne in attempts for a last minute sale; bottom: Friends in Action from Phnom Penh set}


  • Hi Anne-

    Kiva sounds really interesting, I’ll be sure to check it out. You might be interested in learning about a similar cause, Nest. It’s a non profit organization that focuses on supporting female artists & artisans in developing countries by providing them with the materials/supplies they need to sustain entrepreneurial businesses.


  • Yes, it’s the same in India – so many people need your help and never quite sure what’s the best thing to do.

    Rather than getting into a state of paralysis and indecision I think it’s better to just do something in a way you feel comfortable with, knowing that the something will make a difference to someone, if not everyone.

    See my post on sponsoring a child in India

  • I just learned myself up on KIVA, and gave it a little posting love on my blog :).

    I thought that it might be nice to highlight globally involved non profits once per week, just to get some established and esteemed mission deeper out to the masses. Perhaps it’s something a few of us could consider doing, so that the chances of effectively spreading awareness can be increased?


  • This is a beautiful post. I often wonder the same thing. There is an organization called “word made flesh’ that I love – does essentially the same thing with kids in Romania and other countries. It’s good to know that there are ways to help that aren’t so unsure. Thanks for this post!

  • What a great idea for a gift.

    I had a difficult time in Cambodia, too, not so much with the children selling things, because we didn’t see too many of them, but with the children begging. The sheer volume of the crowds of children who came asking for money was so high that it took the option out of even wondering if I should give them money — it was impossible — there were hundreds of them. I felt completely at a loss.

  • Wonderful post. For me, that’s the hardest part of traveling – meeting so many begging children! To find out about local charities and support them is a great way to make a difference.

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