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The original world nomad "Real knowledge is to know the extent of one's ignorance." - Confucius.

Yogyakarta street urchins

INDONESIA | Monday, 7 July 2008 | Views [1181]

After Bali I was slightly surprised at the general level of poverty on Java. Not extreme poverty but the sheer volume of Becak drivers willing to pedal you around for a pitance spoke volumes. Despite the vibrant market along Marlborough Street, there was inevitably a handful of beggars, usually the old but we didn't come across any children. 

Not during the day at least.

"Hssssssss!!!!!!" The scruffy and barefoot street urchins hissed at the handful of low-value notes we passed to them which were obviously below their expectations. A local Bakso vendor shooed them away like a pack of wild monkeys, which probably wasn't that far off the mark.

I have travelled enough to no longer be shocked by such sights, but this experience remained with me for some days; those could have been my sons out there.

What are you meant to feel with your two young boys well fed and safely tucked up in bed when a posse of scruffy and barefoot four and five year olds accost you at the traffic lights obviously hungry and living on the street?

I have always tried to believe that giving money to children is worse than useless as it usually perpetuates 'the system' and giving anything but money and giving it to an institution is a better outcome with a longer term impact. 

But those could have been my sons out there, leaving a disturbed feeling that remained with me for some days. Our work with Footprints obviously presents a neat and appropriate outcome but that doesn't mean that you can just walk away from children needing help. But what does a few thousand Rupiah do, apart from perhaps feeling quite so hungry for one more night? Nothing really. 

But that doesn't mean you shouldn't do it.

Tags: becak, beggars, children, dilemma, poverty, yogyakarta


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