Many people like to travel and give to the people in the countries on their journey. It can be rewarding to lighten your suitcase as you go rather than fill it up with souvenirs. Some tour companies allow you to do this as part of their regularly planned activities. If you are traveling solo, you need to seek it out.
Developing and third world countries offer the greatest opportunity to give back to the population, since they are the most in need. Many NGOs (non-governmental organizations) are located in places like Guatemala and Peru to assist those living in garbage dumps or Shanty towns. If you are travelling to Guatemala City and want to see the famous garbage dump and its residents, Safe Passage provides tours on Thursdays each week. If you re in Peru and spend extra time in Lima, Haku Toursamong others , will give you a four hour tour of their Shanty Town, made famous when the residents were forced to move to Lima to escape the terrorism of the Shining Path movement in the 70s.
For a visit like this, it’s appropriate to bring a gift for a host family, or some school supplies for the schools you may visit. It may take up some room in your suitcase, but that room and weight is more than offset by the feeling you get when you see that excess maps, pencils, paper, greeting cards, and other items that were taking space in your home, are coveted by those in need.
For just about any other country in the world, visit the Viator web site. In addition to sightseeing tours, they offer home visits to schools in many destinations, which gives you a chance to meet locals unlike anything you can do on your own. For some tours there are overnight home stays; for some others it is just a visit and a meal with a family. These may seem a a bit pricey, but the money goes to the local families in need.
If you prefer to travel what a group, Overseas Adventure Travel and Grand Circle Travel offer these opportunities in all their tours worldwide. For every tour you book, $10 goes to the Grand Circle Foundation to help support schools and communities everywhere they spot the need. This is typically most evident in the African nations, South America, Central America and Asia.
Also remember that for impoverished nations simply booking a tour and gong there (solo or with a group) helps the local economies, which are largely dependent on tourist dollars.
Try coming home what a lighter suitcase next time you travel. It might be the best souvenir you return with.