Shahpura Bagh's new swimming pool

Klara Glowczewska, former Editor in Chief of Condé Nast Traveler, and her family traveled with India Beat to Rajasthan in the summer of 2016. In the magazine she writes about the tragic contrasts of India and what you can do to help.

In India last summer the contrast could not have been more shockingly stark. First, clawing at the window of our car, a teenage girl begging and brandishing a prop – a toddler whose face, neck and shoulder were one bloody sore. Then that night, a posh dinner at Jaipur’s Rambagh Palace hotel (music, marble, wafting rose petals). I’d been told repeatedly not to give money to the beggars in India, but this was too much. “They will not get to keep anything you give them,” our tour operator and Jaipur resident, Victoria Dyer (of India Beat), in the car with us admonished. “They will be forced to hand over the money to whoever runs them – parents, organized gangs.” The gangs – remember Slumdog Millionaire? – probably rub the wounds every night to make them worse, she explained. “Giving handouts,” she added, “only strenghens the system that keeps these kids on the streets.” But how can one not do something? “Donating to an established and well organized charity is the only way,” Victoria continued. She recommended Jaipur’s branch of SOS Children’s Village (an international nonprofit with operations all over the world), which looks after hundreds of abandoned street children, educating them and giving them a chance at a better life. While there is plenty of misery close to home, travel strips away the dulling film of familiarity and intensifies our perceptions, making us more keenly aware of the world’s needs and vast disparities. But what action to take is far less clear. Two years ago this magazine joined forces with Population Services International (PSI), one of the largest nonprofits addressing issues of global health in more than 60 countries. Together we set up the Conde Nast Traveler Five and Alive Fund, to improve the lives of the most vulnerable – children five and under, who die in disproportionately large numbers from entirely preventable diseases like malaria, pneumonia, or dirty drinking water. We have helped to raise more than $1 million from readers and the travel industry (thank you, Crystal Cruises, the Inn at Little Washington, the Inn at Blackberry Farm, and Beam Global Spirits and Wine). Programs like PSI where 94 cents of every dollar goes not to overhead but to projects on the ground, really do work. A UNICEF study reported that the world’s early-childhood mortality rate has declined by more than a quarter in the last 2 decades – 8.8 million deaths last year, from 12.5 million in 1990 – in large part because of the widening distribution, especially in the developing world, of inexpensive technologies (antimalarial mosquito nets, pneumonia medication and the like). And UNICEF stresses that it is because so many have pitched in, wealthy nations, philanthropists such as Bill and Melinda Gates, international agencies like PSI and individuals. You can make a difference by supporting an organization such as PSI, which is promoting the large scale distribution and use of bed nets, as well as water purification systems. It is shocking – but encouraging too – how little it takes to make a difference. For example a $10 donation will supply an African mother with one bed net that will last for 3 years. Visit psi.org or makeadifference.cntraveler.com to find out more about PSI and the Five and Alive Fund. By donating you can be sure, wherever your travels take you, that there is at least one way in which you can help improve the lives of children the world over. As Melinda Gates said in a recent interview, “If we tackle the problem systematically, piece by piece, we can make progress, and it’s really important for people to know that.”

 

The Right Way to Give

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