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January 25, 2011

I would like to go

Young girl on road side waiting for traffic to slow so she can beg
Young girl on road side waiting for traffic to slow so she can beg

Poverty in Ghana is rife. The average annual income is about US$780 dollars. Begging is illegal but quite prevalent in Accra. Many of the beggars are disabled, perhaps crippled by polio or blinded by diabetes. Many travel from far away villages to seek their fortune in Accra, and find themselves driven to the streets by circumstances.

This may sound unfeeling but, although I understand the economics, I very seldom give money to beggars. Don’t get me wrong, I am sympathetic to their plight. I will buy something I do not need from a disabled peddler because I respect that he is at least attempting to overcome his disability and earn a living. I am working to help a school run by a wheelchair bound gentleman who has never walked in his life. But I seldom give to people who get up each morning, get dressed and come to the streets to knock on car windows for money. Especially those in wheel chairs who have HIRED someone to push them in the traffic.

Blind Beggar
Blind Beggar

The photo above is very touching, and right now you are thinking of how cold hearted I must be. When I see this picture, however, I think a) he is making enough money begging to pay this child to lead him around; b) this child should be in school or doing something much more constructive.

On two occasions we have given food to these beggars who claim to be so hungry. The disappointment has been obvious and the thanks grudging. “Cash only, please”, they seem to say.

But I find it hard to ignore the children who gather around the car window and beg, “Madam, please, I am hungry.”

Boy in the middle of traffic begging
Boy in the middle of traffic begging
Perhaps that is why their parents send them out to tug at our heart strings; well it works.

I do have sympathy; I am sorry for the children and angry at a world that builds bombs while children are sent out to beg.

Mother watching daughter beg at a car window
Mother watching daughter beg at a car window

This morning we were stopped by a small girl. She gave the practised gestures, with a desolate look on her face she put the tips of her fingers together and pointed to her mouth. The meaning is unmistakable “I need food”. In this case no matter how this girl drooped her face she could not disguise the spark in her eyes that one sees in children with fertile minds.

“No school?” I asked her.

Her response was “I am from Niger”.

She was a refugee probably here illegally and not eligible for the free government education. Then she dropped her eye lids and said softly “but I would like to go.”

1 thought on “I would like to go”

  1. Those children from Niger should be rounded up and enrolled in schools. Their parents encourage them to beg: the women beg too, while the men sleep the day away and collect the proceeds. I dont give them money, especially after I heard their fathers buy small arms like knives etc with the money. Imagine! smh

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