How do you give back without giving in?

You will see beggars in Cambodia, you will see kids ‘working’, trying to sell you their trinkets, books, scarves, marijuana - pretty much anything. It’s a part of life, we get used to it. Hanging out by the riverside in Phnom Penh, which is really popular with tourists, it is in your face. On a recent trip down there for dinner I was frustrated watching the tourists buying from the street kids. Why? Because they are usually ‘pimped’ out and only see a tiny fraction of the money we pay. But the thing is, I remember buying a scarf from the cutest little girl on my very first trip to Cambodia, I didn’t know any better, I thought I was doing my bit by helping out as I am sure a lot of travelers do. So the question is - how can you give back without giving in?

As I mentioned, some of these kids are getting ‘pimped’ out but others are working for their families. As long as we keep buying from them their parents will keep sending them out to work as opposed to going to school and getting an education. Whilst I understand that these are not always the cases, in my experience they more than often are.

There is a certain short-sightedness among some of the poorest people in these developing countries which I could not begin to pretend to understand however I know as travelers and tourists there are certain things that we are able to do to help, one of them is to simply (and with a big smile) refuse to buy anything off kids. Buying off these kids, or giving to begging children, actually reduces their ability to leave the streets and access education.

While i’m on the subjest another thing that gets on my nerves is people wanting to visit orphanages while on holiday. I understand that all the best intentions are there but if you really think about it who are they trying to benefit, the kids or their own self esteem? I know of tour companies that include visits to orphanages in their itineraries and it appalls me, they should know better. Orphanages are places where kids should be given a second chance in a private, caring and supportive environment - they are not a zoo!!!

Childsafe has a hard hitting, confronting but effective, campaign which includes photos such as the one at the top of this post. Kids are not a tourist attraction and should not be treated as such. Check them out through the link below - they do great work!

‘Voluntourism’ has also become quite a lucrative business and while there are plenty of legit organisations who do an amazing job by connecting volunteers to areas where they are needed I have actually found out that there are organisations that don’t even do a simple background checks on their volunteers, hard to comprehend... again - probably another story to itself!

What can we do?

One of the best things tourists and travelers can do is to support organisations who work with marginalised youth by providing them with vocational training and community based initiatives.

Cambodia Children’s Fund is a great one and don’t forget 50% of all World Tables Cookbook sales are going to these guys or you can donate direct through the link below.

You can also check out this link which gives you 7 hot tips for when you do travel.

There are also some amazing restaurants that train former street kids and youth at risk in all the different arts of hospitality. I love the work of these 2 restaurants - KOTO Kitchen and Romdeng:

KOTO (know one teach one) - Now has 2 locations in Vietnam:

59 Van Mieu St, Dong Da District, Ha Noi

151A Hai Ba Trung, P 6, Q 3, TP, Saigon

Hot tip - try their Bun Cha!!!!

If you aren’t planning on visiting Vietnam any time soon they also have an AMAZING cookbook available through The Book Depository (FREE shipping worldwide) - They have it listed for AUD22.56 which is 24% off. You just have to click below and type in KOTO.

Free Delivery on all Books at the Book Depository

Romdeng is another great restaurant with some of the best Khmer food I have tasted (and you can try spiders - EW!), you will find it at #74, St 174 - Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Finally I would encourage you to share this message with as many people as possible, I think it is an important one.

As always with gratitude,



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