Leisurely riding a tricycle and donating it to a merchant afterwards.

Go Give Concept, Lijang, China

Lijang, China. May 19th, 2010

We buy a tricycle to discover the beautiful area around touristic town of Lijang. With sow-capped mountains in the background and a fresh breeze, pedaling is a delight.

We then find a poor merchant and donate her the bicycle to enhance her livelihood.

Doing something good doesn’t need to be professionalized all the time. Every once in a while, Charity Travel finds a needy individual and makes them happy with a sustainable donation in kind. We donate something useful, that is a commodity to the tourist wallet but a valuable asset for the less privileged.

The city of Lijang lives from tourism and the region is relatively well off, so it is not the perfect place to showcase our go-give concept, but alas, we don’t have time for a detour into China’s most impoverished regions. We hope that bolder and more resourceful travelers will challenge us on this one. Still, there are poor individuals we can make happy for a while and that may count as well.

So we decide to buy a tricycle here, use it for an excursion to the countryside and then donate it to a poor farmer or merchant in need of a vehicle. A taxi driver brings us to a backstreet marketplace, where we buy a tricycle of the kind typically used by local merchants to transport merchandise and farmers to transport crops to the market. At first, we buy the cheapest model, assuming it would fulfill its task just as well, but after a loose screw, a defect brake, and a broken chain we conclude that it is better to purchase the better brand for 30% more. The new trike is much better and a real pleasure ┬áto ride. It has a mechanism preventing excessive force on the chain, a pedal brake giving it something car-like, and a more stable trunk. We take it to our guesthouse and adorn it with the letters “Charity Travel” on a yellow background to improve its visibility at night.

The next day, after getting our train tickets to Kunming, we go for a ride in the countryside. It takes a while to leave the quickly expanding town of Lijang but once we reach the countryside, get off the main road and out of sight of the city, we get a genuine feel of rural China. Pedaling to the backdrop of an amazing snow-capped mountain range (a famous tourist attraction here), alongside a barren field and newly built village houses is fantastic. A few beautiful hours later we decide that it is time to start looking for someone to donate our vehicle to. After all, we have to find out if this concept works. We follow a lady carrying a heavy basket on her back and try to signal her that we want to donate our vehicle to her. She doesn’t seem to understand what we intend and so we continue seeking someone in need of a tricycle. The village people seem to be quite well off, which makes us riding back into town, supported by a slightly slanted road and a strong back wind make things much easier.

We keep looking out for a vehicle less roadside merchant to make happy as the wind blows us back into Lijang, but they are not easy to find. It is the very market area where we bought the trike the other day, where we spot some merchants without vehicles. We saunter about the narrow market street before we pick a smiling woman who is selling berries out of a bucket and park our tricycle right in front of her. We show what we hold for a Chinese translation of “We would like to donate this vehicle to you” but it turns out to be a completely different sentence the helpful information desk woman translated for us yesterday. So we start pointing at the trike and the woman and making a “giving” symbol. I take out the keys and put them in the hand of the merchant lady; she smiles timidly. We are understood! Yeon points at the bucket full of red berries and the body of the trike, indicating its future use. The woman smiles back and nods her head. To express her gratitude she donates us a bag of the delicious berries. Yes! We shake hands and take pictures for the website, attracting the attention of some curious bystanders. When we walk back towards the old town we are smiling. The go-and-donate concept is working! And the berries are delicious.

The go-give concept
Adventurous travelers that really want to experience more of the local culture, and less of the tourist industry need to change their consumption pattern. Instead of bringing everything they need from home, they could buy affordable local products and recycle them. All they have to realize it that it is no waste because they are going to make a local happy after the travelers have left. Because they will donate it to him.

What do donate
The concept works with nearly everything a traveler or expat needs to sustain and entertain himself. Here is a list to give you some idea.
– vehicles (car, motorbike, bicycle, tricycle, canoe)
– a tent
– cooking gear (stove, pans, knives) and utensils
– mobile phones and other gadgets
– books and magazines
– hiking boots and jackets
– a horse

In many cases, this also pays off for the more parsimonious of travelers, because the cost of transportation, insurance, rent is often higher, not to mention the hassle to bring all your stuff with you.

How to find an eligible individual or group
If you can, take some time to connect with locals who could tell you about trustworthy organizations or the location of the town’s poor neighbourhood. If you don’t know anybody or want to do things all by yourself, you will be surprised by the way you find yourself looking at the world while you are searching for anybody in need. You will observe your surroundings much more attentively and make a very rewarding experience.

Affiliate initiatives
1kg more is a China-based initiative encouraging travelers to use fill up their luggage until the allowed limit with schoolbooks and stationary in order to donate it to local schools. We have met some of their passionate contributors. Highly recommended.
More recently, the initiative angelmule has been launched by British entrepreneur Avis Mulhall.

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