It may be no surprise but looking something like this…
…in a foreign country makes you stand out! As well as people wanting to greet you, sell you their wares, touch your hair, it can also attract attention from beggars.
In a developing country this is understandable, considering that even on the tightest budget you probably have a lot more money than most of the local population.
Despite this, regularly being asked for change can be frustrating and it is impossible to give to everybody.
There are some other issues to consider too:
1. Where is the money going? Leaving aside conversations about money funding drugs and alcohol, some people are forced into begging. This goes for children, in particular, who are sometimes put to work on the streets by adults or criminal gangs and often suffer violence and other abuses. Of course not every child on the streets is under coercion but it is an issue to be aware of (http://tinyurl.com/ph2gf5g).
2. Are you creating a cycle of dependence? It has been interesting to see this sign around Cape Town city centre:
The council is discouraging giving to beggars and promoting donations to charities working directly with those on the street instead (http://tinyurl.com/ohmvlyc). They argue well intentioned handouts may be perpetuating people’s life on the street, preventing them from engaging with support services and encouraging begging to be seen as a livelihood.
3 Are you giving effectively? As this blogger (http://tinyurl.com/lk5drzo) explains, you want to give money to where it will have the greatest effect. By giving to an individual the underlying problems that led them to be on the street, such as poverty, lack of education, drug problems, are not being tackled. It may be better to give money to a charity working with the homeless/vulnerable or one working to reduce poverty.
Or perhaps buying The Big Issue (http://tinyurl.com/mpwr9wd).
Personally I have not made a policy that I will never give to beggars but in general I do not. Along this trip I have decided to give 10% of what I spend to a charity/charities because I feel this is a more effective way to give.