Rustic Pathways Global Perspective Series #3
All Articles

Rustic Pathways Global Perspective Series #3

What counts as giving in your country?

The Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) compiles the World Giving Index, an annual study of global giving trends. CAF surveyed 1.3 million people across more than 100 countries over the last ten years. Core to the results is the following formulation:

Have you done any of the following in the past month –

  • Helped a stranger, or someone you didn’t know who needed help
  • Donated money to a charity
  • Volunteered your time to an organization

While we certainly don’t presume this report captures all of giving, it forms the start of a rich conversation. We asked our panel of global experts what counts as “Giving” in their countries. We invite you to read the full Giving report and the global perspectives of our experts.

This is the third article in the Rustic Pathways Global Perspectives Series.


Nothing feels better than giving to others especially when they really need it. In China, we highly appreciate the spirit of unselfish service and providing timely help. At the same time, we deeply believe that “no one should do to others what he does not want others to do to himself.”

To me giving means generosity and compassion. As an old saying goes “Give roses to others and the lasting fragrance will remain in your hand.”


Dominican Republic

Dominicans are not only cheerful, loud, and spontaneous. We are hugely solidary. I treasure beautiful memories of my childhood. My neighbor passing my family a plate of food, so we can taste what she has cooked. My uncle bringing us fresh fruits and vegetables from his conuco –that is what we call small family farms. And my mom giving candies to children in her school. Giving is very rooted in our culture.

For us, showing solidarity is not only about giving material things but also about sharing what you cannot touch but feel. Delivering experiences, laughter, and help. Managing to keep in touch with friends and family who are far from you. Taking care of children and elderly people in families and communities. Supporting your beloved one during difficult times. Stopping in the street to help change a flat tire. Asking for a blessing to your parents or wishing God’s company before someone goes outside. That is the environment in which I grew up.
These days, far from stopping us from helping, have motivated us to be more open, and generous. They have been an opportunity to show what we are made of: solidarity.

Los(as) dominicanos(as) no sólo somo alegres, bullosos(as) y espontáneos(as). También somos enormemente solidarios(as). Atesoro bellos recuerdos de mi infancia. Mi vecina pasándonos un plato de comida para que probáramos lo que había cocinado. Mi tío trayéndonos frutas y vegetales frescos de su conuco –así le decimos a las pequeñas granjas familiares–. Mi mamá repartiendo dulces entre los(as) niños(as) de su escuela. El dar está muy enraizado en nuestra cultura.
Para nosotros, ser solidario(a) no es sólo dar cosas materiales, también es compartir aquello que no puedes tocar, pero puedes sentir. Brindar experiencias, risas y ayudas. Arreglárselas para mantenerse en contacto con amigos(as) y familiares que están lejos. Cuidar de los(as) niños(as) y envejecientes de la familia o la comunidad. Apoyar a los seres queridos en momentos difíciles. Detenerse para ayudar alguien a cambiar una llanta. Decir “ción mami/papi” al verles a tus padres o desear a alguien “vaya con Dios” antes de salir de casa. Ese es el tipo de ambiente en el que crecí.

Estos días, lejos de detenernos de ayudar, nos están motivando a ser más abiertos(as) y generosos. Han sido una oportunidad para mostrar de qué estamos hechos(as): solidaridad.


Giving in India is not just a materialistic thing but it has a broadened perspective. It can be love, care, empathy or sympathy or when someone needs you and you are there. And since the ancient Indian culture feeding needy, homeless people is considered a good karma.

Individuals come together to help or reach out to individuals in need, a group of people, community, village, NGO’s, animals, creature and nature. It was taught to us to help in any capacity and if you’re not able to contribute in physical form, we think about them and hope their suffering ceases. So giving to me, giving can be helping someone physically or thinking about them emotionally.

भारत में देना केवल भौतिकवादी चीज नहीं है, बल्कि इसका एक व्यापक परिप्रेक्ष्य है। यह प्यार, देखभाल, सहानुभूति या सहानुभूति हो सकती है या जब किसी को आपकी जरूरत होती है और आप वहां होते हैं। और प्राचीन भारतीय संस्कृति में जरूरतमंदों को भोजन कराना, बेघर लोगों को एक अच्छा कर्म माना जाता है।

किसी जरूरतमंद व्यक्ति, लोगों, समुदाय, गांव, एनजीओ, जानवरों, जीव और प्रकृति के समूह की मदद करना या उस तक पहुंचना, यह हमें किसी भी क्षमता में मदद करने के लिए सिखाया गया था जो मैं कर सकता हूं और अगर मैं भौतिक रूप में योगदान करने में सक्षम नहीं था मैं हमेशा उनके बारे में सोचने के लिए उपयोग करता हूं और आशा करता हूं कि उनकी पीड़ा समाप्त हो जाएगी। इसलिए मुझे देने से किसी को शारीरिक रूप से मदद करना या भावनात्मक रूप से उनके बारे में सोचना है।


Giving has not been its own separate culture for Mongolians, the steppe nomads. It has been deeply engraved into their hospitable, caring, and empathetic tradition.

They always prepare tea and food before they leave their Ger (Mongolian traditional dwelling) for other passing nomads to come in and have while making sure they don’t lock their door. During the day, they are always on the watch for moving herders just to make sure they bring drinks and snacks to give them a pleasant break and exchange some news. They exchange snuff bottles for their greeting, symbolizing “what’s mine is yours”. At these rural homes, people are expected to just show up at one another’s home and in fact, calling or writing a letter to confirm if your visit would okay, is considered to be not trusting their hospitality. It is a very common saying amongst the locals “Spill it, rather than asking it”, so, you will find yourself extending your arms to an almost overflowing cup of tea not long after you are invited to sit at the honored guest area.

However, in more urbanized areas like the capital city Ulaanbaatar, some of these norms are not maintained while a few still endure, like serving tea without asking the guest or showing up to one another’s without a call. So giving is its own culture in my city but it still is a core trait. As a young girl, it was my job to bring a traditional delicate meal to our neighbors every time we had it. A visit to another family always meant a stop at a store to buy some gifts. And, going to the countryside always entailed packing the back of a jeep with treats and gifts. The chores of cleaning our classroom or the entire school gathering to clean the community or my family joining seasonal neighborhood work were always explained to me as a way to show our gratitude. These were usually times of hard work with some singing or fun conversations.

So to me, the descendent of the nomads and the citizen of the city, giving is my culture, giving is gratitude, and giving is joy.

Талын нүүдэлчид болох Монголчуудын хувьд өгөх гэдэг тусдаа соёл байгаагүй юм. Өгөх гэдэг нь тэдний зочломтгой, тусч болон бусдыг ойлгодог ёс заншилд гүнээ шингэсэн байдаг.

Тэд гэрээсээ гарахдаа өнгөрөн явах нүүдэлчдэд орж ирээд идээрэй гээд цай хоол үргэлж бэлдэж гардаг ба ингэхдээ хаалга үүдээ цоожлолгүйгээр гардаг. Өдрийн цагаар нүүдэлж яваа цувааг харуулдан унд цай бэлдээд өөдөөс нь тосон очиж амрах боломж олгонгоо мэдээ солилцдог уламжлалтай. Мэндлэхдээ хөөрөг зөрүүлж миний юм бол таных гэж бэлэгдэнэ. Эдгээр алслагдсан айлууд үргэлж зочин хүрч ирэх бэлтгэлтэй байдаг ба утсаар ярьж эсвэл захиа илгээн танайд очиж болох уу хэмээн асуух нь өөрөө тэдний зочломтгой байдалд эргэлзэж буйн илэрхийлэл болдог. “Асуухаар асга” гэдэг түгээмэл хэллэг байдаг тул та айлд ороод хойморьт уригдаад удаагүй байхад нэг л мэдэхэд өөрийн эрхгүй цайгаар халгисан аягыг хүлээн авахаар гараа сунгахаас өөр аргагүй болно.
Гэхдээ, хүн ам шигүү төвлөрсөн Улаанбаатар шиг хотод эдгээр ёс заншлуудын зарим нь хэрэгждэггүй ч асуулгүйгээр цай аягалж өгөх, эсвэл нэгнийдээ урьдчилан залгалгүйгээр очих гэх мэт цөөн заншлууд гол хэвээр байна. Тэгэхээр миний хотод өгөх гэдэг тусдаа өөрийн гэсэн соёл боловч бидний амьдралын гол хэв маяг хэвээр байгаа билээ. Үндэсний хүндэтгэлийн амтат хоол хийх болгонд хөршүүддээ хэсгийг нь аваачиж амтлуулах бага байхад миний хийдэг ажил байв. Айлд очно гэдэг дэлгүүрт орж бэлэг авахын нэр байсан бол хөдөө явна гэдэг жаран есний арыг амттан болон бэлгээр дүүргэх ажил байсан. Хичээлийн дараа ангиа цэвэрлэх, сургуулиараа нэгдэн суботник хийх эсвэл гэрийнхнээр хөршийн холбооны ажилд гарах зэрэг нь талархлаа илэрхийлэх хэлбэр хэмээн ой тойнд минь тайлбарлагдан үлдсэн байдаг ба эдгээр үеүд дуу аялангаа эсвэл хөгжилтэй яриа өрнүүлэнгээ хичээнгүйлэн ажиллах цаг байсан.

Тиймээс, нүүдэлчдийн удам, хотын иргэн миний хувьд, өгнө гэдэг бол миний соёл, өгнө гэдэг бол талархал мөн өгнө гэдэг бол баяр хөөр минь юм.

South Korea

Growing up in the Seoul, South Korea, of my youth, the neighborhoods were imposing, often austere apartment buildings that looked like giant matchboxes. But memories of giving conjure thoughts of sharing food with our neighbors.

Korean cuisine is known for the small dishes that accompany the main dish. When my mom made a fresh batch of small dishes, she would ask me to deliver to a neighbor, and I’d navigate up and down to deliver to a specific unit. Culturally it was and is considered courteous to fill a container when giving back, so the giving continues in endless loops.

The giving as doing for others continued at school, where we might perform acts of service. Students clean their classrooms after school, and each class takes turns to pick up trash around the school to keep the block clean. I remember one semester, my mom came to school once a week to volunteer as a parent-teacher.

In addition to the local level, Koreans give on a national level. Korea experienced a severe financial crisis in the late 1990s. During this time, there was a nationwide campaign to collect gold for Korea, and about 227 tons (equivalent to $2.17 Billion worth) of gold was collected voluntarily from the people of Korea.

Finally, giving in Korea means that Korean men are required to serve the military. We grow up learning about the heroes who fought for Korea, and although it’s not emphasized in our daily lives, intrinsically we respect those who served the country and gave to us.

서울에는 성냥갑처럼 생긴 아파트들이 많아 차갑다고 느껴질 수 있지만 그 속에서도 이웃이 존재한다. 한국 음식을 얘기할 때에는 반찬을 빼 놓을 수 없는데 어릴적 이웃들과 반찬을 나눠먹었던 기억이 있다. 엄마께서 반찬을 만드시면 아파트를 오르락 내리락 하며 반찬 배달을 하던 기억이 있다. 또한 한국에서는 반찬통을 돌려줄 때 무엇인가로 채워서 돌려주는 것이 예의라 반찬통이 여러 번 오고가고는 했다.

학교에서는 봉사로 기부하는 경우가 많은데 학생들이 방과 후 교실을 청소하였고 각 반이 돌아가면서 학교 주변을 청소했었다. 또한 특정 학기에 엄마께서 학부모 교사로 일주일에 한 번 재능기부로 수업을 가르치신 기억이 있다.

국가적으로는 대한민국이 90년대 후반에 극심한 경기 침체를 겪은 적이 있다. 이 때 전국민이 금 모으기 운동에 참여해 227톤 (약 21억 7천만 달러어치)의 금이 모인 적이 있다. 그 외에도 성인 남성들은 국가를 위해 군대에 가야하는 의무가 있으며 나라를 지키기 위해 싸운 영웅들의 이야기를 들어 매일의 삶 속에 강조되지는 않지만 나라를 위해 봉사하는 분들을 존경한다.


In Tanzania, giving is equivalent to sharing. We have a common saying in Tanzania “kutoa ni moyo si utajiri,” which literally translates to “giving is about your heart, not your wealth.” Giving is not just a tradition during celebrations, it is part of the lifestyle. As a child, you can go out to play and end up eating a meal at a neighbors house and it would not be a problem. Whether you are riding in a daladala (public transport) and exchange a “karibu,” or welcome, or eating mhindi choma (street grilled corn) and share a piece with a neighbor, sharing is everywhere in day to day life in Tanzania.

People commonly collect donations for orphanages, children’s homes, homes for the elderly, prisons, but giving is not just about sharing material goods, but also quality time. Time given is more valuable than money: time for visiting a friend who has given birth, visiting someone who is sick, time to attend a wedding, or pay respects at a funeral. Being present in the moment with someone is what all sometimes one can give but it is the most treasured and valuable giving of all.

Additionally, as Tanzania is a multicultural and multi-religious country, all holidays are celebrated and we all participate in each other’s celebrations. For example, during Christmas, Christians invite Muslims to festivities, and during Eid, Muslims will invite Christians. In fact, during the month of Ramadan, there would normally be open houses and mosques that provide food for people. It’s definitely one thing that we are missing during this time of COVID-19.

Overall, in Tanzania, it is never about the quantity we should always give, be it time or money, because as we the Swahili people say “maji ya kifufu ni bahari ya chungu,” or, “water in a coconut shell is like an ocean to an ant.”


Giving in Thailand means a lot. It not only means giving something to someone but it is beyond that. You would want the people you have given something to have a better life situation. Nowadays you can see that more from the local people who do not live in a big city. Giving and exchanging still takes place in the local community mostly in food and fundamental stuff.

To me giving is also an important opportunity! To get or to give the opportunity to or from people means a lot. It could really change a person’s life or even to change the world. So to me, “opportunity” is the best way to define what giving is.

สำหรับสังคมไทยเเล้วการให้ถือว่าเป็นเรื่องปกติที่ยังคงปฏิบัติกันอยู่ในปัจจุบัน เราถูกสอนให้มีความเมตตาเเละเเบ่งปัน การให้อย่างถือว่าเป็นส่วนหนึ่งของวัฒนธรรมไทย เรายังคงเห็นการให้เเละการเเบ่งปันได้จากชุมชนในต่างจังหวัดโดยส่วนมากจะเป็นในเรื่องของการเเบ่งปันอาหารเเละสิ่งของเครื่องใช้พื้นฐาน
สำหรับผมการให้ถือว่าเป็นเรื่องสำคัญโดยเฉพาะอย่างยิ่งการให้โอกาศ ไม่ว่าจะเป็นการให้หรือการได้รับโอกาศนั้นมันสามารถทำให้เกิดการเปลี่ยนเเปลงได้ในหลายๆอย่างไม่ว่าจะในส่วนบุคคลหรือแม้กระทั่งการเปลี่ยนเเปลงโลกทั้งใบ สำหรับผมการให้นั้น เปรียบเสมือนการให้โอกาศ


“Lá lành đùm lá rách” is a Vietnamese saying which means “To care for those who are in need”. This idiom is taught as the first lesson at elementary school in Vietnam. And this shows in times of need and crisis. As you may well-know, COVID-19 has left unprecedented negative impacts on the livelihood of many Vietnamese. Government, local authorities, and generous donors have set up “Rice ATMs” at various locations across cities and rural areas so people could come and collect free bags of rice.

Growing up in Hanoi, the capital city of Vietnam, I have always been aware of my responsibility and duty to give back and contribute to local communities, and have facilitated lots of sustainable models of giving back such as setting up cricket farms for farmers at the Red River Delta, or building standardized infrastructures for remote villages.

Giving, to me, means you have the urge to take actions and genuine care for those who are in need and every action/project delivered comes with deep levels of understanding of local context, their difficulties, and differences, their needs, and desires. Empathy plays a key role as well, as I truly believe I need to be in their shoes in order to know how they feel and what they have to endure.

“Lá lành đùm lá rách” là thành ngữ Việt Nam, nghĩa là Chăm sóc cho những người đang cần. Thành ngữ này là bài học dân sự đầu tiên tại trường tiểu học ở Việt Nam. Và điều này được thể hiện rõ nét trong thời điểm cần thiết và khủng hoảng. Như bạn có thể biết, Covid-19 đã để lại những tác động tiêu cực chưa từng có đối với sinh kế của nhiều người Việt Nam. Chính phủ, chính quyền địa phương và các nhà tài trợ hào phóng đã thiết lập nhiều cây ATM gạo tại nhiều địa điểm khác nhau trên khắp các thành phố và khu vực nông thôn để mọi người có thể đến và nhận các túi gạo hoàn toàn miễn phí.
Lớn lên ở Hà Nội, thủ đô của Việt Nam, tôi luôn nhận thức được trách nhiệm và nghĩa vụ danh dự của mình khi đóng góp cho cộng đồng địa phương, và đã tạo điều kiện cho rất nhiều mô hình kiến tạo bền vững như thiết lập trang trại dế cho nông dân ở lưu vực sông Hồng, hoặc xây dựng cơ sở hạ tầng tiêu chuẩn cho các làng xóm ở những nơi hẻo lánh.
Đóng góp theo tôi, có nghĩa là bạn có sự thôi thúc để hành động và chăm sóc chân thành cho những người có nhu cầu và mọi hành động / dự án được thực hiện đều đi kèm với sự hiểu biết sâu sắc về bối cảnh địa phương, những khó khăn và khác biệt, nhu cầu và mong muốn của họ. Đồng cảm cũng đóng một vai trò quan trọng, vì tôi thực sự tin rằng tôi cần phải hiểu thế giới quan của họ, để biết họ cảm thấy thế nào và họ phải chịu đựng điều gì.

About the Author

Scott Ingram

Scott is the Director of Admissions at Rustic Pathways. He has spent the last 15 years in the student travel and experiential education world. Before helping families find the perfect Rustic Pathways program, he led gap year programs that took students around the world and spent three years teaching English in Japan.