Poverty

11 10 2007

Today I was stopped by a child in ragged clothes and a rickety bike.  He must have been about 8 years old and should have been in school, but wasn’t wearing a uniform so probably can’t afford to attend.  “I’m hungry” he murmured.  I expressed sorrow and sympathy.  He followed me and repeated himself, this time explicitly asking for food.  I refused politely and walked on.

Most mornings I walk past a man sleeping in the gutter.  He’s dressed in rags and has lost one of his feet.  He doesn’t seem to ask anyone for anything.  I’ve been stopped by a girl in primary school uniform who messed around and then asked for money.  A chubby teenager explained he was an orphan being raised by an uncle and aunt.  He said he walked 30 miles to school everyday, was saving for a bicycle and wants to be a doctor.  He asked me for an exercise book.

I had expected this.  As a white man wearing a shirt and tie I stand out and appear affluent.  I am affluent compared to some of the people I encounter even with just my VSO allowance and house .  Before I came out I decided I wouldn’t give to individuals.  It is against the point of why I gave up a well paid job to come out here.  It creates dependency rather than empowerment; it isn’t sustainable and no skills are transferred.   But what strikes me is the politeness and the smallness of the requests.  A few may be just trying it on, but I don’t know how many more hungry children I walk away from.

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