I used to give change to beggars, until I heard some alarming information about beggars in some countries being part of a begging ring who have to hand over all their money to somebody every day or else. Apparently they just get some food in return for a days begging money and that is only on condition that they gather as much money as those running the begging ring think they should.
Now I give beggars other things instead when I travel. For example, there was one guy on the Khao San Road in Bangkok who was begging outside one of the convenience stores there. I used to buy him breakfast while I bought things for me and my daughter every morning.
Also when I am going to countries where there are a lot of very poor people I take some of my daughers clothes and shoes that are too small for her and give them away. There is a slum in Bangkok where I go if I have a lot to give away. There is a lady there who runs an organisation to look after people in the slum who gratefully accepts everything I bring.
When I am at home here in Germany I rarely give to beggars because all homeless people here get 10 Euros per day from the social welfare, even if they are here illegally.
I find it a tricky area, and I'm never consistent. In India I never knew what to do - it was often whimsical whether I gave to people or not, if I was in a compassionate mood and someone looked especially vulnerable I would give, other times not. I also heard about the begging rackets there after a while, and then I started not giving, but I guess you never know who is part of a begging ring and who isn't? It's so difficult and I often felt guilty. Also I befriended a street family once in south India, and I gave them stuff, a mixture of money and food and clothing, regularaly, but then other people saw and word got round, and I had people chasing me down the street and pulling at me to give them money. And in Varanasi I heard that a lot of the women I saw on the street there with burnt and defaced faces, were widows whose husbands families didn't want to take care of them, so burnt them and then threw them out on the street - I gave to some of them. I don't know what the answer is.
At home, again, sometimes I give, sometimes I don't. What I don't like actually in recent years, is the number of charities who pay people to stand out on the street at 100 metre distances from each other, and try to get you to take out a monthly subscription, saying, 'not much, only 2 or 3 euro a month' etc etc. If you say no to one, the next one tries to get you. I find it invasive and intrusive and guilt-mongering, ie, why can't you even spare 2 euro a month? But if you took out a subscription with all of them, you could be paying 100 euro a month - and some of them can even get nasty if you say no thanks - once someone called down the street after me saying 'so you can't even spare a minute for children in need?' They don't even know who I am and what I do - at the time my job was actually working with children with severe disabilities, so actually I was 'sparing' 40 hours a week for children in need. In any case, 'no thanks' should be enough.
But I still feel guilty! I find it very confronting to be faced with others' needs and my own responses ie should I give/do I want to give/I have so much more than them/ etc etc - it just goes round and round in my head.
Nope. If you really want to help you can find reputable local (or not local) charities and give to them. Perhaps it doesn't give you that instant gratification or ease your guilty conscience, but it's the best way to help people. Like Mel says, what you give to them directly often won't actually help them. It's sad and hard...but it's just one of those things in this world that sucks.
Mel - You live in Germany? For some reason I thought you were Irish...?
no, never. we believe that in the long run it doesn't help. it's the whole "give a man a fish, and he will eat for a day, teach him to fish and he'll eat for a lifetime" thing ... it's hard at times, especially when it comes to the children, and sometimes we feel like jerks, but we both feel pretty strongly that it's only encouraging dependance on the tourists. instead, we try to find organizations that we trust and believe do good work. we favor the ones that don't just give handouts, but teach usefull skills or crafts so that the people can earn a living themselves.
I noticed that in Thailand the locals often give to beggars. When I saw that I wondered if the dreaded beggar syndicates which abuse the beggars do in fact exist. Surely the Thais would not support that by giving money to the beggars?
I'm just reminded of when I was walking along the street in Chennai once, with another traveller. There was a man in front of us who was dressed in a shirt and trousers, just walking along, he looked like he was coming back from work maybe. He turned around at some point and saw us, then stopped in front of us and held out his hand, doing that 'hand to mouth' gesture ie asking us for money! It was like he just saw two white tourists and thought 'oh I can get some money off them if I pretend to be a beggar'...
I'd rather make a donation to an organisation which is helping get people off the street than to beggers.
If a child can make money begging there is less incentive for that child to get an education and without education there is no hope.
Locals can give to beggers as they would know who is genuine.
I don't like being a big dollar bill when travelling so have a blanket no policy. I keep that up in London too, where the beggers are slightly more annoying!
I'm with Mell on this one:
give something useful. If they're asking for money for food, give them food. If they are asking money for a drink, give them water. Basic human kindness doesn't have to fuel a cycle of drug use/exploitation/naivety.
It depends, but usually no. I will offer food in lieu of money (to children beggars) and find that they reject it in most cases, which means they have food and are working for someone else for money only. As sorry as I feel for them, I agree with Samarquista that you should give them something they can use immediatly (food, water).
When I was in McLeod Ganj there was a begging scam which had kids begging not for money, but for packaged food or milk and if people bought it they would then take the container back to the shop it was purchased from and get a cut. Good for the shopkeeper who got to sell the same item over and over again and good for the beggar who got cash anyway.
Beggars come in all sizes and shapes, but generally I have become quite effective at heartlessly ignoring them. The main problem with people begging is that you never know if you are really helping them out or if you are being taken for a ride. Many years ago I'd naively give some small coins or pencils to kids in Kenya but maybe they were just milking the tourist trail for trophies. Talking about Germany Mell, I vividly remember a begging little grandma in Berlin, strolling down the street barefoot after having conveniently removed her pink pumps and slipped them into a hidden bag. In China they often simply grab hold of you and refuse to let go, which turns me very antagonistic from the start. As soon as they see their crocodile tears aren't working they latch on to some other person coming down the street from the opposite direction. My favourites are the lazy ones though, like the laidback men sitting around at the beach in Dili and who greeted me with a smile and "Hello, one dollah!"
Not so easy to dismiss though, are the worn faces of old men and women sitting quietly in the streets of Bangkok, or the cripples literally crawling and pushing themselves through the crowds at the Chinese railway stations. Once I met a teary-eyed guy in Dili who with a very limited vocabulary was trying to raise money for a bus ride to his home province. I think I believed him but I was disturbed by the fact that he asked for more money that what would have made sense for a bus ticket. In the end I've just become jaded and suspicious, much like I don't like to be accosted by touts of any kind.
My housemate when I was living in Canada told me that some other students invited him to go out with them. He thought it might be fun to get to know more people so agreed. They then told him to wear old clothes because they are going begging. He changed his mind about going out with them.
I don't give to Beggars because they're not doing anything to earn it. That's also why I fully support busker's. For that reason, if a beggar would do something ; sing, whistle, burp the alphabet, whatever; I'd have no problem giving them money. However doing something does not include simply asking for money.
Convienient that people with money and from the 1st world actually talk like those without anything and wtihout any way of support should be "doing" something. The amazing thing about the poor is that they will give everything away, and the amazing thing about the 3rd world is that the value system isn't based on performance or what one "deserves". This whole idea of teaching a man to fish is great, but it would be interesting to find out how many of us are teachers and how many of us like to travel to other countries without any desire to follow through on their philosophy but are willing to go see cool stuff. If you give some rupees to a kid on the street...is it really going to hurt you that bad?And if you don't want to, don't do it. But don't talk this self-righteous talk if you aren't willing to follow through.
If you want to really stop begging, if only for the reason that they bug you, try traveling for the cause to become that teacher.
No. Never, but then again, I have never been anywhere where people are starving to death. I have been through Egypt and a lot of northern Vietnam where yearly incomes drop below $500 usd. But when you have the resources to grow/produce food, and you have shelter, I maintain that giving money to people who don't 'need' it will, over the long haul, change a society. And I travel to see societies as they are naturally, not as 'tourist' cities that have changed their socioeconomic platform to support vacationers. This was no more evident to me than in Sapa, Vietnam where the hill tribe women were selling illegal drugs in the street. It was just the saddest thing.
I feel that it all had to start when the locals realized that tourists had money...lots of it, in comparison to what they had. So the locals started doing whatever it would take to get some of that money. And the problem grows from there. The Lonely Planet books are very good about laying out guidelines for what is appropriate to give and I believe it was from there that I began forming my opinions.
Not to mention stories in the local San Diego newspaper where I live...every year they write about street beggars who go home to big, paid-in-full houses with their daily pittance. It's amazing!
I always give. Sometimes money. Most of the time food.. chocolate for the kids, rice or grain for the grown ups. This is in India.
At home I always give cigarettes, money or a beer. I am supporting the point of view that they are suffering anyways and if a beer helps them to be happy for 10 minutes, then I shall help them for 10 minutes. Rather 10 minutes happiness than 2 days stress 😊)
I don't while travelling because I know in some countries it's illegal but I'm not sure which countries this includes. Back home I tend to give to those trying to something to earn the money, such as drawing pictures on the pavement in chalk. If someone's drinking or smoking and asking for my money I'm not going to give it to them though. I'll happily support them food wise but I won't support them wasting money on things I consider self destructive.