> <snip> Would it be helpful to
> bring any USA "tokens" to hand out? Any ideas of what? We understand we will be
> taken to a favela (poor section of town) and have the opportunity to provide
> material donations there.
I have a handbook for "adventure travelers" that gives some good
recommendations. It advises travelers to NOT give out money, candy,
pens, and other items to local children. "...it is a culturally
destructive practice that creates a subservient begging mentality in an
otherwise proud culture and perpetuates a shallow and stereotyped
relationship between tourist and locals." The gifts can create jealousy
among children who don't receive them; candy contributes to tooth decay
in areas where dental care is non-existent. Balloons can spread
respiratory infections among children sharing them, and cause a choking
It does suggest you support the community at large by making monetary or
supply donations to local schools, hospitals, orphanages, etc. For
instance, give a supply of pencils or crayons to the local schoolmaster,
who can ensure they are shared by all the kids.
I've traveled in a number of third-world countries and have found the
above advice very sound. Before leaving home I try to make a local
contact and get suggestions as to what is needed. Otherwise, I take a
stash of "luxury" items like crayons and good paper for the students,
and some pens and white chalk for the teachers. Books and magazines are
terribly expensive in these countries and much appreciated. It's fun to
buy old National Geographics that have articles on the local region;
world and regional maps are also good. I know one person who takes
inflatable globes for the classrooms. I also try to avoid things that
are non-recyclable or burnable, like markers; waste management in most
villages does not exist.
Hope you have a great trip. My grandmother was born in Minas Gerais and
grew up in Sao Paulo, which makes Brazil high on my list of must-go-tos.