Think twice before giving money to street children

On Friday afternoon, a Canadian backpacker and I sat on the stoops of Starbucks on Newbury St. watching people around us. We saw a young girl playing her guitar and singing to collect some change. We had to turn away a man who was apparently collecting cash donations for the Children’s hospital (I’m gullible but not that gullible). One conversation led to another and we started talking about giving money to the poor.

It might be because I grew up being surrounded by beggars on the street and children running around barefoot saying ‘som moi roi’ (what beggars in Cambodia say asking for money, 100 riel to be exact) but I have a strong policy when it comes to giving money to the poor. The most important of all is: NEVER give money to young children.

That same day on Facebook, I saw a photo shared by ChildSafe Network:

There are a few reasons why I don’t give money to children on the street. The poster above explains one of them, which is that it keeps them away from education. Many times, these children on the street are sent out by their parents or other guardians/adults to go solicit donations because they know that children can bring in more money than they can.  This means that instead of going to school, they are forced to go out and beg for money. More often than not, I see their parents playing poker under the shade while 3,4,5 year olds run around begging for money. A lot of times, the money they earn with their two little hands and cute little smiles do not go to them and instead, are used to gamble or to buy drugs (it’s a generalization and a bold statement but it happens more often than you think).

In Siem Reap, I met a 5 year old boy who told me that he wasn’t allowed to be back home until 4am. He was tagging along groups of drunk teenagers, asking them for money.  It may be irresistible and tempting to give these children a dollar bill but think twice and maybe donate it to an organization that helps keep children off the street instead.

Also check out Ethical traveller: Giving money to street kids on BBC and Why giving money to street kids is a really terrible idea on Travelfish.


12 thoughts on “Think twice before giving money to street children

    • Thanks for the comment! The reality is definitely more complicated and good intentions are not enough – sometimes a harmless dollar can be more dangerous than not giving them anything!

  1. It tough not to, though, isn’t it? I remember being at Angkor Wat and getting surrounded every time I’d get out of our van by kids selling little souvenirs. They’d all walk with us, begging and pleading all the while. It was my first time experiencing something like that and I didn’t quite know what to do…

  2. Thanks for writing about this NaEun – it’s sad but true and sooo good of you to raise awareness! This was definitely one of the eye opening things for me during our travels in Asia, a tough but important thing to learn about.

    • Thanks for the comment!! ChildSafe Network does some cool campaigns like these – definitely worth writing about and, hopefully, help (even just a little) spread the word.

  3. Such a great post topic! thank you for sharing. another great way to help children in need is to just volunteer, of course giving money does seem easier it is not as effective as doing something yourself

  4. You’re absolutely right, the parents collect the money from the children, and often none of it goes back to them. I even heard some instances in Romania and elsewhere, where they would cut a child’s thumb off, just so it would be easier to teach them how to pickpocket. These poor children are born into these circumstances and there is often not much to change it…again, thanks for sharing.

    • that’s so awful.. I usually can only speak from what I’ve witnessed in Cambodia but I’m sure it goes around everywhere in the world.. thanks for reading and commenting!

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