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Why you should not give or buy from street children

The children that line the streets in many parts of Indonesia selling books, postcards, flowers, and jewelry and occasionally plain begging for money  are a familiar sight, and giving to them comes off as a natural and kind gesture; refusing to do so appears heartless and cruel. They’re impoverished, obviously in need, and so full of witty banter that you can’t say no to them.

What you might not have realized was that by doing so, you were actually helping no one but yourself to feel better. If you see children of any age living on the street, it is not beneficial to offer them anything. This includes money, toys, and sweets. If anything, your actions are exacerbating the issue. We are the only thing that keeps the cycle of poverty going.

Cycle of poverty

It’s hard, even for people who know that giving money to street kids just keeps them in the cycle of poverty they’re already in. And remember, a dollar shoved into a little hand on the streets of any town in a poor country is not a harmless dollar. A dollar may not sound like much, but if it means feeding them and their kids today—something they obviously need—or sending their kids to school, then surely this isn’t too severe. However, the reality is that it is indeed horrible. You hope that any money you give to a homeless kid who is begging or selling goods on the street will be put to good use. By providing financial support, you may assume that a child has the means to attend school and meet basic needs like food and water. 

Giving things are short term solutions

Giving money, sweets, or food isn’t the answer, though. To give you an example, the best case scenario is that the children I gave my food to, ate it and  they had a healthy breakfast. But that’s it, in the long run, this won’t help at all. By doing so, I was demonstrating to them that they could acquire nourishment just by begging for it. If they get older, what will happen? We are condemning these children to a life of poverty if we give to them now. Even if they have the option to go to school, some children would rather labor on the streets since it pays more and provides them with more food. 

Victims of abuse 

When their parents realize how much money their children can make by begging, they have even cast them out onto the streets. Unfortunately, this makes them an easy target for street gangs. When we give money to children begging on the streets, we are often supporting the very adults who are pushing the children to beg. Children living on the streets often don’t have easy access to basic necessities like schools, hospitals, and hygiene. 

Moreover, children living on the streets are more likely to be victims of trafficking, forced labor, and sexual exploitation. The National Baseline Study on Violence Against Children found that children are exposed to violence in many places, like the neighborhood or the street.Because of their temporary status, no one seems to care if a street child disappears or is harmed. Some say that they fall prey to drug trafficking gangs. The street is not child-friendly. Because of this, keeping kids safe from the dangers of the street is a must.

When a child looks tired and hungry and asks for help, and you don’t help them, it makes you feel terrible. Fortunately, you can help the situation in ways other than simply providing the requested item(s). 

How to help them?

You can help children living on the streets by giving to one of the many organizations that accept donations all over the world. In Indonesia, there are a number of credible organizations helping children living on the streets by getting them into school, paying for their education, offering extracurricular activities like music and painting, and providing financial aid to their families. Next time you see a child on the street, ignore your instinct and don’t give them anything. You are contributing to the issue by doing so.

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