"" Writer's Wanderings: When You Travel Should You Give To Panhandlers?

Thursday, August 10, 2017

When You Travel Should You Give To Panhandlers?

My first experience with children panhandling was on a visit to Tijuana, Mexico. We used to travel to San Diego each year right around our anniversary because Bob always had a trade show then so part of our expenses were a business write off. One year we decided that it would be interesting to visit Tijuana. Everyone always talked of the bargains in leather and other products that were there. So we set out and drove a short distance south, parked our car on the American side and walked over the border through customs and immigration.

Once through the little venue that was right outside of the immigration area, we followed the walkway to the main part of town and were surrounded by a constant drone of children's voices asking us for money or to buy a stick of gum or piece of candy. We had received some literature from those who were trying to curb the practice. On it we were told that the children were forced into begging and that by contributing to them we would only be perpetuating the practice which often involved beatings if the children didn't get enough money.

It was agonizing to walk by them but even if we had stopped to buy candy or give a donation (one little toddler plucked a one string toy guitar with a cup in front of him) we would have been inundated by a crowd of children.

That experience was many years ago. We have never been to Tijuana since and in fact left not long after we arrived. It was too depressing. But we have experienced similar situations in other countries. What's a traveler to do? It is heartbreaking when you see the need.

I read an article not long ago that gave what I thought was a good solution. Since you are not helping out much by perpetuating the panhandling with a few coins here and there and could even in this day and age be contributing to human trafficking by doing so, refrain from pulling out your loose change. Instead, look into some charities or organizations that may be at work in that country and make a donation to them. They will make your money go farther and to those who truly need it. Perhaps it will help to keep the children in school rather than on the street and not be used by adults for their own gain.

And while you are researching those charities, you might even run across one that will allow you to help out for a few hours or a day. Now that could be one of the best travel adventures you may ever have.

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