Things that are Dirty, Broken, Easily Broken, Sharp, Torn, Poor Quality, Liquid, in Aerosol Cans.
Alcohol or Cigarettes.
Women’s cologne, perfume, cosmetics.
Markers. Used-up they become litter.
Battery Operated Toys and Games. Batteries are too expensive for poor parents to replace and when they corrode the acid in them is dangerous, especially if there are no local dumps or places to safely dispose of them. Button batteries are especially dangerous because small children might find them inviting and easy to swallow.
Old Laptop Computers. Electricity is still sporadic or unavailable in some developing countries. There are few or no technology instructors in many places.
Exception: If you make contact with your recipient before traveling and agree that the specific computer you are offering is desired.
Before you travel, aska senior representative from the recipient organization to write a letter, on their letterhead stationary, stating that the computer is a gift for a charity and if it is a 501 (c) (3) make sure this is included in the letter. This should prevent officials from levying duty or confiscating it after you arrive and are going through customs.
Warlike. Plastic guns, military dolls, helmets, grenades, knives, tanks, ropes.
Religious. Books, bibles, crosses.
Sexist. Dolls reinforcing specific roles for women or dolls with sexy bodies.
White Dolls. Avoid giving White dolls, especially princesses, because they send a negative subliminal message to vulnerable, impressionable Brown or Black girls in developing countries that it’s superior to be Caucasian and that princesses are White.
Candy, Gum, Soft Drinks. American parents warn their children, “Don’t take candy from strangers.” In developing countries parents may not want their children to have sugary snacks or soft drinks. A child may have diet or religious restrictions. Poor parents in remote areas may not have access to dental or health care or can’t afford this care.
TIP: Purchase locally-sold fresh fruit, a nutritious, sweet treat.
Books or comic books with action/super hero figures unfamiliar to non-American children.
Political (reflecting support for a political party or individual politician)
Recollection: We made an exception in Nairobi, Kenya, where we gave picture postcards of President Obama to locals. They appreciated the cards and educated us about the President’s father’s Kenyan Luo tribe.
Look at the coloring book drawings (below) that are easily understood by American children. You can probably figure out why we eliminated these pictures as gifts because they might be culturally insensitive, incomprehensible, or depressing to poor children in developing countries.