Developing Countries – 5 Ways to Help

June 17, 2015

Amy Trumpeter

I hope that you had the chance to read my slightly controversial blog on why you should not give money to people in developing countries (Should we Give Money to Beggars). I am prepared to stick my neck on the line and say – don’t give people cash directly!

And I don’t say this because I’m cold and heartless. I say this because I have had extensive travel and volunteer experience in developing countries and I know what works long-term and what doesn’t.

What are Developing Countries?

Developing countries are less economically developed countries. Examples of developing countries include Pakistan, Peru, Rwanda and Bangladesh. Many people in developing countries are facing poverty on a daily basis.

People used to refer to developing countries as ‘third world’ as opposed to ‘first world’ (developed countries). However, we avoid using the term ‘third world’ nowadays as it is no longer accurate or appropriate. I believe that ‘Third world’ is a Western imposition that implies some countries are worth less than others, which is not the case, they are simply at different stages of development.

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Helping developing countries – Why listen to me?!

I ran a social enterprise called Kigali Crafts for three years, which supported Rwandan genocide survivors through fair trade. Closing Kigali Crafts because it was unsustainable during the recession was one of the hardest things that I have ever had to do in my life. But what I learnt from this experience will lead to even bigger and greater things, and I don’t have one ounce of regret.

Just because I don’t believe in giving money directly to people, that doesn’t mean that I don’t care about poverty and international development. In fact, it means the opposite – I really do. But now I am aware that it is far too easy to have our Eurocentric views and project them on other countries, thinking that we know what’s best for them when in actual fact, we don’t.

Top 5 Ways of Helping People in Developing Countries

Here are my top 5 way that you can help developing countries. They are sustainable. They are rewarding. They are possible. They will make a difference.

#1 Travel!

Oh yes, how fantastic! You can help developing countries by travelling in them. Buy your food from the local market, take cultural tours and stay in their hotels. You are creating jobs and improving the economy by doing this.

By travelling to developing countries you are also learning about their culture. When you come home and share your wonderful experiences with others, this will hopefully have a positive effect on tourist numbers as you encourage more people to go.

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#2 Volunteer

Sometimes, doing a whistle stop tour of a city in just 5 days is just not enough. With the rise of voluntourism, you can get to know the local culture, make new friends and make a difference. Time and skills are very valuable commodities.

I volunteered with Faith Victory Association in Rwanda, and, apologies for the cliche, but it changed my life and the way that I understood things.

When you volunteer, be flexible and understand that things might not work in the same way as they do back at home. If you go in with this attitude, you will gain much more from your volunteer project abroad.

Think carefully about where you want to volunteer and who you want to work with. For me, it was about teaching and women’s empowerment. You may have medical skills to offer in a health centre or you might like to work on a conservation project. The possibilities are endless. A great place to start your research for a volunteer placement is Global Volunteer Network. However, it might be more cost effective if you approach the charities on the ground directly (see Should I pay to Volunteer?)

Volunteer in developing countries
Me volunteering in Rwanda

#3 Give money to Sustainable Projects and Large NGO’s

Tempting as it is to give money out to someone who seems to be in need on the streets, it’s much more effective to give that money to a Charity or NGO (Non-governmental Organisation).

When choosing an NGO to donate to consider the following….

  • Does it support projects in the country that you want to support?
  • How long has the NGO been running?
  • Does it operate on an International scale?

Given the experience that I now have, I would only give money to the large NGO’s that operate internationally, such as Oxfam and Action Aid. That’s because I have seen so many smaller and newer projects fail due to unsustainability. You wouldn’t want to invest money only to see it go to waste, would you?


Oxfam works in developing countries


Some people say that you shouldn’t give money to projects that advertise on TV. I personally disagree with that, because I understand that charities have to profit and essentially run like a business.

What I do disagree with is TV ads that portray Africa as being full of children with pot-bellies due to malnutrition and flies in their eyes Рmany African people would not like to see their country being portrayed in that way.

Supporting a charity is very personal. Decide what you want to support and fully research it. For me, education and healthcare are key.

#4 Teach Business Skills

Don’t give handouts, teach skills! You might find that you actually do have a lot to offer in the way of skills. You would be surprised by what many people in developing countries need to learn. It’s not because they are unintelligent, it is simply because they have never been taught.

Now, remember that when you teach skills in developing countries it must be appropriate. You are not going to go ahead and teach them how to use a Macbook Air when they have never even seen a laptop now, are you?!

But simple entrepreneurial skills such as teaching basic accounting or record keeping could make a big difference to how someone runs their small business. Just don’t take over – let them lead. That’s what grass roots projects are all about.

#5 Raise Awareness

Raising awareness and sharing information can influence and inspire other people to help those facing poverty in developing countries. Presenting to schools can influence the next generation to make a change.

There are certain topics that people in developed countries are not really that aware of. Many people even in the UK and USA are uneducated about HIV and AIDS, for example. There are sometimes atrocities occurring in the world that the Western world are almost oblivious to.

If you can raise awareness and educate others, you are not alone in making a change in the world.

How do you Help Developing Countries?

I’d love to hear how you make a difference to developing countries and travel responsibly. Please share your comments below.

You might also like to read Should I pay to Volunteer?