Here in Jinja there is a large population of street kids. These kids live on the streets, sleep on the streets, the streets are their homes. Whenever we are in town we see the same kids and they are always asking for money for food. The easy decision seems to be to give them a handout, give them money for food, right? But is it the best option? I look at my life and think to myself all that I have, why should I not be giving to these kids. Herein lies the problem, the desire to “help”, and what seems like the simple solution can actually be compounding the problem and enabling their life on the street. One of the big problems is that if you give the kids money, it may not always go towards food or improving their lives. Unfortunately, for so many of the kids, they come from a tough background, a background we as adults could not begin to comprehend much less live as a 10-12 year old kid. This tough background leads to drugs or alcohol to numb the pain. The drug of choice on the streets is huffing or sniffing gasoline. The fumes give them a high and a sense of warmness to fight of the cold nights on the streets. Other times the older kids force the younger kids to go out and beg for money. The older kids have lost their “cute” appeal or are too old to get the sympathy the younger kids attract.
Photo credit: The Street Child Project
The good news is there are multiple ministries here in Jinja that target street children as their ministry such asChild Restoration Outreach and The Street Child Project. The bad news is that often times the kids would rather live a life on the streets because there are no rules to abide by and honestly it is much more profitable to be on the streets. The easier life for them, one that doesn’t involve having to go to school or getting a job once they are older, can end up being a life on the street. There are herds of tourist and mission trip teams that come through Jinja and the kids can hit up a new group every few weeks. It is a sad cycle that unfortunately keeps repeating itself.
I have come to know a young boy named Mike who is 12 years old. He has told me his story several times when I have seen him in town. He told me he was kicked out of the house by an abusive stepfather. He told me the stepfather threatened to beat him if he came back. Mike has told me all he wants to do is get enough money so that he can pay school fees and get an education. Everything about Mike makes you want to help him. He is cute, charming and tells a very good story. It is so hard to tell a 12-year-old kid no when he asks if I can support him to go back to school.
Remember those ministries I told you about that help with street kids and work in some of the poorest villages? One of those missionaries knows Mike well and told me he has a home in the village, but chooses to live on the streets because he gets more money and more food working the tourist on the streets.
This is the tough part about dealing with these kiddos. Which ones really need and want help? Which ones are choosing a life on the streets?
Kari and I have adopted the policy to not give money to the kids. However, I always smile spend time talking to them to see what is going on in their lives. I always try to direct them to the ministries that are there to serve the street children.
Pray for the kids that are on the street that they would come to know the love of Christ and they would find a way to get off the streets.