Random giving (e.g. taking donated clothing and other items and handing them out to random locals in the street) is not good practice, whether you’re on your own or on an organized tour. National Geographic stated it best in their article ‘6 Ways to Be a More Sustainable Traveler’:
“…this kind giving often has unintended consequences—it can sow community conflict and encourage a culture of dependency and begging.”
A better idea is to donate to an establishment such as a church or orphanage, or to one of the multitude of non-profit organizations who are equipped to distribute to those who are most in need. Do some research about the community you’ll be visiting before you go - there are a lot of resources online that can point you in the right direction.
It’s best to contact the organization ahead of time to find out exactly which items they need the most. But if that isn’t possible, the following is a very short list of what to bring for donation:
Vitamins )adults, children, prenatal, senior adults, Ibuprofen, Acetaminophen, analgesics, antacids, decongestants, antihistamines
Baby aspirin, teething gel, diaper cream and other infant and toddler meds and toiletries, thermometers
Bandaids, diapers, adult diapers
sunscreen, mosquito repellent
Manicure kits, small scissors, sewing kits
Rechargeable batteries and chargers
school and office supplies
Small basic tool kits
Feminine hygiene products (good pads and tampons are impossible to find there)
Pencils, pens, crayons, pencil crayons, coloring books
*I’ll be adding a list of organizations to this page in the near future.