Help­ing Kur­dis­tan’s Beg­gars

The Kurdish Globe - - News - By J. Watt

On a re­cent trip to a de­vel­op­ing coun­try in South­east Asia, we were ex­horted by the lo­cals to not give to beg­ging chil­dren be­cause it en­cour­ages them to leave school. Es­pe­cially as the sea­son of Ramadan closes, I wanted to voice my opin­ion of why giv­ing money to beg­ging chil­dren in Kur­dis­tan may not al­ways be the most help­ful to truly al­le­vi­ate poverty.

As our guide in South­east Asia pointed out, giv­ing to beg­ging chil­dren en­cour­ages them to keep beg­ging, and in so do­ing de­prives them of their op­por­tu­nity to ac­tu­ally bet­ter their eco­nomic sit­u­a­tion through ed­u­ca­tion. If a stu­dent ap­plies her­self, what­ever the back­ground, school gives the chance to go to col­lege, get a job, and get out of poverty. In giv­ing money to a beg­ging child, who could have oth­er­wise been in school, you are rob­bing him or her of real op­por­tu­ni­ties to al­le­vi­ate poverty for more than a day.

While giv­ing to chil­dren on the street can very sim­plis­ti­cally be viewed as help­ful, it may end up do­ing more harm by con­tribut­ing to sys­temic prob­lems like en­ti­tle­ment. Let me share an ex­am­ple. As in many neigh­bor­hoods in this re­gion, our neigh­bor­hood has reg­u­lar beg­gars who come by at least weekly knock­ing on doors ask­ing for money. Gen­er­ally, be­cause of con­vic­tions ex­plained in this ar­ti­cle, we don’t give money (though we still give, more on that be­low). One day, for what­ever rea­son, I gave a young refugee girl a small bill and sent her on her way, think­ing noth­ing of it. Since then, how­ever, she’s re­turned with a stronger sense of ex­pec­ta­tion—to the point that she will an­grily fight by push­ing against our gate so it can’t close, de­mand­ing that she re­ceives money. I did this young girl wrong by teach­ing her that with enough beg­ging and per­sis­tence, she’s en­ti­tled to a wage for her beg­ging. She no longer sees it as a free gift of grace, but de­served. In so do­ing, I’ve re­gret­tably con­trib­uted to larger so­ci­etal is­sues that cre­ate a “ca­reer" soto-speak for the im­pov­er­ished by cre­at­ing a job for them that does noth­ing to con­trib­ute to so­ci­ety or to ac­tu­ally al­le­vi­ate sys­temic prob­lems long-term.

There are no doubt many po­si­tions on this, but our fam­ily has two gen­eral ap­proaches that we be­lieve help our chari- ta­ble dol­lars be used more strate­gi­cally while not fur­ther­ing en­demic poverty. First, we don’t give money but we try to give some­thing—usu­ally some­thing fi­nan­cially in­signif­i­cant like a cold drink, a snack, or some fruit. These are in­ex­pen­sive ways to show care for refugees and the poor while not giv­ing them the money they want and con­don­ing their beg­ging. Sec­ond, we give our money to or­ga­ni­za­tions and char­i­ties that will be much more equipped to work with the poor in long-term ways by cre­at­ing jobs and ed­u­ca­tional op­por­tu­ni­ties.

So next time you’re faced with an out­reached hand, re­mem­ber that redi­rect­ing your ef­forts may be more strate­gic than sim­ply giv­ing what’s ex­pected.

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