As I drive away slowly, I feel that familiar guilty sting and questioned myself (once again): “Am I doing the right thing?” As far as I know, this is what we’re supposed to do, or to not do, rather. We shouldn’t give them any money, I’ve been told. So if I’m doing the right thing, why do I feel so guilty? I realised that it’s an emotional response and although this is a heart matter, I need to approach it with my head if I want to see a positive change in South Africa. I need to do what is right, not what feels right.

I think that this is definitely a problem that needs to be addressed – we need to know what is expected of us, the public. I decided to get inside info, so I got hold of a shelter in Cape Town called Ons Plek Projects and this is what they suggest:

Option 1: Not giving

Most of the children you see on the streets are sent by their family to earn money. Not giving money means these families lose their only income. In the short-term this is catastrophic.

Option 2: Giving

Most children living on the streets use the money they receive to buy thinners, glue or a video game. In the long-term giving money is a death sentence: children learn to be street children – they start strolling and leave their families without an income.

The 3rd option

  • Greet the children you see begging on the streets. If you want to give them something, give them food instead. They’ll move on if they don’t want to chat. Genuine concern is something money cannot communicate.
  • Give the money you would give on the streets to the programmes that are helping address the problem of children on the streets. Programmes include soup kitchens, day programmes, shelters and educational/vocational training opportunities. There are more than 200 children begging on the streets of Cape Town on a typical working day. A great deal of money that could be used by programmes to help these children is being given away by the public.
  • Support initiative and effort. Many people on the streets make a living by selling things, washing cars and gathering paper for recycling. Encourage this.

They can’t do it on their own, more importantly; we make it very difficult for them to achieve success if we keep on giving these children money as they will keep on coming back for more. Let’s do our share!

Reference: Ons Plek Projects, Cape Town

Shelters in Gauteng:
Tshwane Alliance for Street Children, Tel: 082 522 7868
Kids Haven, Tel: 011 421 4222
Twilight Children, Tel: 011 484 1590

Shelters in KZN:
Lean On Me Trust, Tel: 31 765 1818
Street-Wise, Tel: 031 791 2096
Umthombo, Tel: 031 337 9222

Shelters in Cape Town:
Ons Plek Projects, Cape Town, Tel: 021 465 4829
Amakhaya Street Children’s Shelter, Tel: 021 532 0281
Beth Uriel Shelter, Tel: 021 447 8727

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