I realize the problem of giving children in such situations money, but what should one do then? Personally I wouldn't feel turning down a child when I am carrying some ten thousand dollars worth of equipment in my hand. Is there something that one can do to help them? Obviously there are charities, but I mean on the spot while one is in a rush. Or is this simply a lose-lose situation?
Premise: we're in a country at Nepal's financial level.
It's a lose-lose situation, at least if you think your alternatives are "dollars or nothing".
Here's the approach I used, much to my inner turmoil (because I'd give a lot of dollars if I though that would really help*):
1) Reject them, don't give money. "Sorry, no money", or just "no money", shake your head, walk away.
2) If they're persistent, persist.
3) If they're a pest that won't go away, try giving them one rupee each. No more. Really.
Usually, you'll never get to 3), because they'll find easier pickings. Unfortunately.
It really, really hurts to see this kind of poverty.
Now what can we do that's a positive
Well, we can
pay for taking photographs. But keep the amount of money low, and don't teach people where you keep the big money (which I assume is in a money belt under your shirt). Remember that big is smaller than you think, 1 USD is nearly 70 rupees. In Pokhara, 3 rupees will get you a small chilled bottle of real
7-Up, Coca-Cola, etc., 2 is enough if you return the bottle.
Be creative, maybe you can give hungry kids a snack or a shared meal (don't overdo it, because eating too much is
Another reason not to pay/give a lot of money, is that you'll be contributing to inflation in the tourist areas, which means that prices will rise for the locals to. People from the countryside have to go to the same places occasionally, and if the prices get too high, they're worse off.
What's still pretty nice about Nepal, is that the risk of pickpockets etc. is low compared to what we westerners are used to. People will still rather try to sell you over-priced trinkets or beg, and they'll make good money of it, too (to say that they'll try to charge ten or twenty times the reasonable price is not an exaggeration).
In any case, check your Lonely Planet of Footprint Guide book; they're usually pretty good at explaining the situation in the country you're about to visit.
* That being said, we did
give a lot of money, but rather indirectly, by staying at hotels, paying for a guide and driver, eating at restaurants, going on a microplane flight, buying stuff at inflated rather than ten-fold inflated prices, etc.