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#90754 - 08/21/04 12:29 AM To gift or not to gift???  

I read this comment by Reef Ransom:

"The other thing that I see happening and it has taken me over 22 years to see this, is the harm that coming here and bringing "gifts" to people and especially young kids has done and does. I know it seems like a nice thing to do and compared to American standards it looks like the people and kids of Belize are needy but that is only us imposing our own first world standards on these otherwise happy and contented people of Belize. I used to always bring little gifts when I first came down but what I have witnessed is that the recipients come to think that in life things are given to them and that it is ok to expect free things and handouts from foreigners. Yes, I mean even little things like crayons and books for school kids. I imagine some might be thinking I am just hard hearted but I don't say this out of that type of feeling. If you want to give a gift to the people of Belize come and show consideration for their way of living and don't assume that what you have in America or elsewhere is better. Be their friend, talk to them, share your time with them and I believe you and they will be the better for it. Imagine if your kids grew up getting gifts from lots of different people all the time."

I've also seen posts from boarders about bringing gifts. I tend to side w/ Ransom, realizing there's lots of room for debate, but we also would like to contribute something while we're there.
I read that the library is in need of children's books, so we've picked up a few to bring. Any other ideas? Is this a common practice? I don't want to come across as the ugly american, and realize I'll take home much more than I could pack in a suitcase to bring to Belizians. Anybody else done much of this?

#90755 - 08/21/04 11:14 AM Re: To gift or not to gift???  

Did a MB search & found good ideas for gifts - but would like to hear from locals how the practice is viewed by people living on AC - i.e. the gift recepients

#90756 - 08/21/04 12:50 PM Re: To gift or not to gift???  
Joined: Mar 2001
Posts: 2,624
bywarren Offline
bywarren  Offline
I’ll weigh in on this one at the risk of seeming insensitive. I will have to admit that I come down on this issue close to Reef Ransom’s views. When I first started coming to Belize I did the gift thing and brought down many items. I am not so sure it did not do more for my feelings about myself than it did for the recipients. But then again, there is that saying “it is better to give than receive.” Having said that, my belief now is that coming to AC and supporting the people there by being a tourist, after all that is what they have invested so much into attracting, and spending money in the local economy is the best way to “give”. Now I will waffle some here and also say that there are many good causes that need funding. Donating to those is different to me than giving a direct gift to someone who has really done nothing to deserve that gift other than possibly being what we consider in need of that gift. I would venture to say that a large percentage of those receiving those gifts, if asked, would privately not want to admit to “needing” those gifts. When I see someone on the street corner with a sign that says “will work for food” I tend to be more willing to help than to the beggar that asks for a hand out.

I also know that there are many other places in Belize where gifts and donations are much more needed than on AC, and I do not hold these beliefs to be applicable to those places and people. There is also a resentment towards the people living on AC from others in Belize because they feel there is so much money coming to AC from tourism that the people of AC are much better off than others in the country. I am sure this is valid if for no other reason than looking at all the undesirerables coming to AC to rob and steal, it is where the money is.

I will finish my thoughts by telling of some dentists friends of mine who first came to Belize and to AC. They went through the process of deciding they could be wonderful Americans and give some free dental services to the people of AC. OK, here is my skeptical me. I think the taking a vacation and getting the IRS to pay for part of it might have entered into the equation and I wonder what the Belizean dentists thought of these wonderful Americans giving away all of this free service to their paying customers. Anyway, these dentists are still coming to Belize, but they are going into the mainland around Punta Gorda and providing their services to areas that have no Belizean dentists and the people have no access to dental care and could not afford it if it was available. They then come to AC and finish there vacation leaving behind some of theirs (and the IRS’s) money. Seems to me like a win win situation. smile

#90757 - 08/21/04 03:58 PM Re: To gift or not to gift???  

Bywarren, thanks for the input. Ever had a conversation w/ any of the locals about how they feel about this?

#90758 - 08/21/04 04:55 PM Re: To gift or not to gift???  
Joined: Mar 2001
Posts: 2,624
bywarren Offline
bywarren  Offline
Can't say that I really have had any conversations that would be indicative of what you are trying to determine. I tend to think it would be hard to get them to open up in a frank manner that would be indicative of their true feelings and I am sure it would depend on who you talked to as I doubt if all feel the same. Although I have never really tried to iniciate a conversation on those lines. Sorry

I think your idea of books for the library is just fine.

#90759 - 08/26/04 09:50 AM Re: To gift or not to gift???  
Joined: Jun 2002
Posts: 131
son of a son Offline
son of a son  Offline
I can see both sides of this issue.

It depends on who you choose to give to. I have only been down there two times (third time on Sept 2nd!) and feel that I have made some really good friends and acquaintances. I gave some stuff away to them and they were very appreciative and thanked me greatly. They never gave me the impression that they expected anything from me. But I have seen the other side also.

Example: We went on a night dive and we had our own flaslights with us. The divemaster had to round up lights for the himself and the rest of the people on the dive from four other dive operators.
Well, instead of tipping the dive shop at the end of our trip we gave the divemaster one of our lights and the whole rack of batteries that we had. (both things that he needed) along with some polarized sunglasses (from Walmart)to his co-workers. These guys were very appreciative!

These are guys we spent hours with, on slow days, just talking and sharing our lives with each other. Their appreciation was truely genuine.

Now the other side of this coin!

Last year I bought down two fishing poles to give away to two boys that helped us out last year at the cut. One of them I found but the other had moved on. Well, I had kids (and a few grown-ups) all but demand I give the pole to them. It's like they expected it from me! I found a kid that was quiet and shy and gave the pole to him.

It appears that a issue exist and I am guilty of adding to it.

I will limit my giving to the few friends that I have made down there (just as friends do anywhere).

One Barrel and Sprite.....It doesn't get any better than that!
#90760 - 08/26/04 12:12 PM Re: To gift or not to gift???  
Joined: May 2000
Posts: 3,280
Barbara K Offline
Barbara K  Offline
I usually bring stuff to my friends, that they can't get or have to pay outrageously for, but they insist on paying me for it. When I first started coming to Belize and had little ones, a very nice woman I met at the park asked if she could watch the kids for a bit. I let her and gave her something for her time (don't remember what but it was something she complimented me on). The next day she came by with a pair of earrings she had obviously bought to give to me. The message was - she was very appreciative but didn't want charity. Trade is often better than hand outs. I used to tell clients to bring little things for the kids (toys, books, hairclips, etc) but have stopped doing so since I have seen the impact in AC over the years and the "expectation" factor. This is not as true off the island and I still do bring stuff for "mainland" kids.

#90761 - 08/26/04 12:54 PM Re: To gift or not to gift???  
Joined: Oct 2000
Posts: 329
Tom Offline
Tom  Offline
Well here it goes, We have ben coming down since 1991 and have been bringing things down since 1992. My husband & I have contributed generously to several schools both private and SPRC as well as the Town Board Clinic. We also have many friends on the island and a God-son. Most of the time we are thanked but when a person who sent medical stuff through us and needed a note of thanks to show the donation was received never got it (after I had requested one several times and explained why it was needed), those donations stopped. They were just too busy to do that little thing that could have meant so much more in the future. When we were being asked for high priced item like game boy stuff (things I can'y even afford for our grandchildrn here on the states) we stopped giving really nice stuff that we sacrficed to take down. Now we take things but not to the extent that we did before. We usually take one piece of luggage for us and one for donated or gift items. The stringent luggage guidlines helped curb the requess as it became fincially impossible to handle the extra luggage we had provided in the past.
I have talked to several locals and have been told that some of the medical stuff has wound up in private phamacies and sold at a good profit to the Doctor. Others have told me that some of the school supplies also wound up being sold to students if you did not give it to them directly.
This is very disturbing as we are generous people and really wanted to help if we could. If donating to the library I suggest contacting the library directly and speaking to someone in charge as to their actual needs. I have learned to ask questions before bringing goods down and try to make sure that they wind up in the right hands. We have given in the past and will continue to give in the future but are careful about what and how. There is definately an expectation factor and with cable TV and all of the ads the kids & adults see that factor has become even greater.
I hope that this does not seem too harsh of a statement but it seems to be the way things are.

#90762 - 08/26/04 04:45 PM Re: To gift or not to gift???  

Everyone (including those who e mailed us), thanks for the additional perspectives. I've been in contact with someone re: shipping some school stuff we bring to a small mainland community from the BC airport at no cost - so that's where some of the supplies will end up. I've tried a few e mails and such looking for info on specific library needs; not much response. If I don't get more definitive info I'll break down and call. I am starting to conclude that the need is greater outside AC.

#90763 - 09/01/04 11:47 AM Re: To gift or not to gift???  
Joined: Oct 2003
Posts: 284
egcntrk Offline
egcntrk  Offline
Donations to a church & to the soccer clubs would be appreciated, also.

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