Theroux: “I wouldn’t give money to an NGO…I would give it person to person”

Last week, while he was in San Francisco promoting his book Dark Star Safari, Paul Theroux was asked by fellow travel writer Brad Newsham what he thought individual Westerners could do to affect the world’s current situation. Theroux’s reply, which Newsham posted on his website, is as follows:

“I think there’s a lot you can do. The main thing, the first thing you should do, if you’re reasonably fit…is go to the place you wish to help. Don’t put money in an envelope and send it. Maybe Afghanistan ain’t a great idea, but let’s say you want to give money to help people in Kenya. I would say go to Kenya first, walk around. Have your b.s. detector finely calibrated and then go to a village, go to villages, travel around, talk to people, ask questions about the government.

“In other words, before you do something, pre-ramble the territory and see what they need. Actually, I think what people need doesn’t come from the outside, it has to come from the inside. But if it makes you feel good to give something I would say go — be a traveler first, a reader, a traveler, an investigator. Research the whole question, and then you might say that someone needs a cow. Buy that person a cow. You might want to find a little individual and give him some money to go to school, adopt someone. I wouldn’t give money to a charity, I wouldn’t give money to an NGO, I would not give money to a religious organization, I would give it person to person. I would go, find the person or the situation, and then adopt that thing to make myself feel good. I would not give money personally.

“When I left Africa after this trip I stopped giving money to panhandlers, I stopped giving money to aid agencies, and I started decrying the IMF and the World Bank throwing money at problems. I thought: It’s the worst thing I’ve ever heard of, because in 40 years nothing has improved, nothing in Africa has improved because of money.

“But if personally you want to make a contribution, I would say be a reader first, then a traveler, and then maybe… give something.”

Posted by | Comments (12)  | April 19, 2004
Category: Travel News

12 Responses to “Theroux: “I wouldn’t give money to an NGO…I would give it person to person””

  1. Kalvinj Says:

    Things have changed a lot. People have started to think in vivid ways than they used to do. All because of the economic crisis. But I think the world has a new meaning than what we have all in mind.
    Example; there is enough food for all the humans and animals, in abundance. There is air for all living things. There is water for all living creature.
    If our world has everything for you and me, what else do you want? Yes, I know people all over the world think differently about their wants and needs. Some are educated and others aren’t.
    Just because some are ignorant and foolish, it doesn’t mean they can harm the people in a society. Good people like you and I should play a big role in this society.
    I am not asking you to kill all the ignorant and foolish people, I am asking you to be open minded and try to do what you do best, with more power and energy. That way you will beat all the competition. Why? Because then you are strong and powerful in your own field. You become the best. Now you can help others to come up in life, help them with love and encouragement. Invest in their business and build a solid future for them. They too will become strong and help more people and this cycle will start to accelerate and run by itself.

  2. ida bibbs Says:

    i agree very much i have gone to organization adn get the run around i am 66yrs worked i need help to pay rent told themm you can send it directly to the rent office said i will pay you back little at a time i am getting enough 674 for my granddaughter it is just like i never worked and paided taxes so mr THEROUX you are right the ones thaT DO HELP OTHERS NEED TO DO IT ONE ON ONE THA WAY THE PERSON IS SURE TO GET HELP NEEDED THANK YOU IAM still in need i just keep yrying

  3. mr.w.s.a.m.fernando Says:

    i am a sri lanka. i am very poor.please give me $500.


    Dear Sir, My sister is a physically challeged person and she is also a sports person she had partcipated in many international events her goal is to take part in Paraolympic for which she wants a help in terms of moblity and sports equpiments. Kindly help her to achive more and more in her life.
    kind regards