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Should You Give Money to Street Kids While Traveling?

As travelers make their way around cities and towns across the globe, one of the striking challenges they face is whether to give street children money or not.

“Street children” are homeless and at-risk children and young people who live and/or make money begging, hawking, or stealing on the street. There is an estimate of up to 150 million street children in the world with up to 100 million found mainly in developing countries. As travelers make their way around cities and towns across the globe, one of the striking challenges they face is whether to give street children money or not.

Perhaps the first thing to question is why children are unhoused or at-risk in the first place. Some street children are coerced by family members and other adults onto the streets, made to beg for money. Others are in genuine destitution and need of financial aid, without guardianship or care.

David Maidment, founder of the Railway Children, a charity working to support street children says, “Children run away or are forced to leave home, where they suffer poverty, violence, abuse, and neglect. They find themselves living on the streets because there is nowhere else and no one left to turn to. The problems they face on the streets are often even worse than those they endured at home.”

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There are a range of reactions from travelers encountering street children, from handing out change whenever it is possible or avoiding eye contact. Often travelers question what the best or most ethical response should be. One viable option would be to seek out professional resources. Organizations such as the Consortium for Street Children (CSC) work to support children on the streets. They reach out to street children who are unhoused and provide them access to various rehabilitation projects, which include placing them in shelters, children’s homes, and sometimes even foster care. They offer mentoring and educational intervention programs to assist their development.

While the work of organizations such as these goes a long way towards supporting many children living on the streets, travelers and communities alike can do more to contribute to the issue beyond just handing out money. These agencies encourage travelers to partner with organizations, social workers, government institutions, and charities that continue their efforts in addressing this situation. Local organizations that can harness grassroots networks and resources can be funded to effectively channel resources into supporting these street children. And they can offer support in more immediate ways, including organizing activities and classes (i.e., sporting competitions to bolster inclusion and belonging, trade and craft lessons to build skills). These institutions and organizations efficiently utilize resources targeting the issue of why “streetism” occurs and provides rehabilitation when necessary and assists with reintegration back into society.

“Through education, we give children the skills and knowledge to build a better future. The only way to ensure tomorrow is better than today is with education,” says Pete Dannatt, founder of Street Child.

As Frederick Douglass succinctly puts it, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken adults.” Now that we have been armed with this knowledge of finding lasting solutions to the issue of streetism, the onus lies on us to do something about it. Beyond giving money to street children, other ways to help directly includes providing food and supplies, and further-reaching efforts like donating to or working with local children’s organizations that are actively working to protect street kids. The main answer is to do something.