The development sector appeals to emotions in its marketing and education material to raise awareness and funds for its work. Much of this material is now directed at schools, where young people form long-lasting opinions about development and the developing world. This paper draws upon research with 118 students in five New Zealand/Aotearoa secondary schools to show that young people are not passive receptors of development marketing and education. Instead, they question the activities of international ngos involved in aid work and how they are meant to feel or act in response. We examine these emotional responses of young people and the demoralising feelings of guilt, sadness and scepticism that arise, often alongside an innocent paternalism and a desire to help. We outline possibilities for more socially progressive forms of development education, based on the recognition that young people are questioning old ways of doing aid work and looking for something new. We challenge ngos to be part of new forms of global connectedness that disrupt old ‘us and them’ binaries based on difference, and instead to pursue new linkages based on shared feelings of empathy, friendship and social justice.