Ethical Dilemma…

Some days I’m encountered by something that makes uncertain how to feel.  It makes me very uncomfortable, sad, annoyed, and angry.  I’m not proud of these feelings but it’s what automatically occurs when I see children begging.

Now these kids are not just any poor Ghanaian children, that would be a different story.  Some Ghanaian kids say “Hey Obruni, Give me 1 cedi” or “Buy me *insert item*”, but they’re just being opportunistic because I’m white so I must be rich. These beggar children are different.  They are apparently from Northern Africa (I’ve heard Chad), and are sometimes called gypsies (though I’m not sure what the correct term would be.)  These children can be found at the mall and large junctions, and this is their full time job.  Most of them are about 8-12, but I’ve seen them as young as 2 years of age (not even talking fully yet but just sort of toddling around and grabbing on to strangers)… horrible.


These children are very insistent.  They grab on to your arm and follow you down the street without letting go. The stick their hand in car windows.  They get what they can and then run back to give it to their parents.  They don’t get to go to school or play, they only beg. They don’t look very well taken care of, and for some reason they are always wearing jerseys. They are constantly shaken off, rejected, yelled at, and looked at with anger and disgust.  I’m seriously concerned about their mental well-being, and doubt it’ll be easy for them to turn into fully functioning adults with proper relationship strategies.


So what do you do?  How do you face this situation?

  • If you don’t give them anything you feel bad since they are obviously desperate for food and money (maybe they won’t eat today…)
  • If you give them something it just reinforces the system, where their parents know they can easily make money by using their children while they sit around nearby doing nothing.  (I’ve seen the children bring the money back to their parents who start smoking weed.)

Personally, I don’t give them anything.  I guess I should work to fix this broken system but it seems overwhelming and there are many other problems currently being faced in Ghana that seem equally pressing.  So my question is, what would you do?

About Amanda

Hi, I’m Amanda! Originally from Ottawa, Canada, I am currently living with my partner (Steve) in Sucre, Bolivia for the next year. I work in the unique space between industrial design and international development – but what does that even mean? I’m passionate about working WITH marginalized communities in a way that utilizes design to improve the lives of different types of people around the world. I have worked, studied, traveled, and researched on every continent (except Antarctica), and most recently I lived in Ghana, Bangladesh and Nepal. I love exploring new cultures and learning more about myself along the way.
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4 Responses to Ethical Dilemma…

  1. Brian says:

    An additional issue might be that some of the street kids are run by a “pimp” or Fagin a la Oliver Twist who collects the money from them. It’s a really tricky situation. In Uganda I would sometimes offer to buy food for them (which can also backfire because they might get punished for not getting money instead). A really good alternative that some of the other folks would do is find a respected local organization that does local community development programs with street kids and urban poor.

    But, that still doesn’t deal with the immediate issue of being mobbed by kids that look in serious need of help and feeling like an utter shite for giving them blankface and walking away. It’s a hard reality sometimes.


    • mandyrox2 says:

      Hey Brian, I appreciate your thoughts. That’s a good idea about finding a local organizations, I hope they also help children from other countries, though I doubt their parents would be thrilled about the idea.

      The pimp thing might be possible. I’ve often seen like a man and woman sitting on a blanket nearby watching but it’s possible they’re not actually the parents. I’ve heard they get upset if you offer them food also.

      Anyway I know it’s not an easy problem. But just wanted to share my thoughts and I appreciate your response!


  2. megfir says:

    I heard a great TEDx talk this weekend about trafficking of children by a lawyer working in Malawi. She strongly recommended against supporting any type of begging that includes children because it is a way of supporting and encouraging the human trafficking of children.


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