Should You Ignore Beggars?

A family I came across, begging in the Nana district of Bangkok....

It kills me every time. Walking past beggars in Bangkok is harder than it is in most of the places I have lived around the world. There is something about the depth of desperation and despair that just feels more acute here.

You may see an amputee with no legs, dragging himself across the sidewalk amidst the storm of pedestrian traffic. Or it may be a mother with two tiny babies, holding up a soda cup on top of a foot bridge.  Or it could be the dad with his two kids (pictured), pleading for change outside 7-Eleven.  It’s hard to know how to respond.

I wrote a post – Should you give to beggars? – when I still lived in Northern California. At the time I lived in a college town with a large population of transient 20 somethings that begged for cash. The knowledge that there were relatively well-funded shelters nearby and the fact that the travelers looked to be in good physical shape made it easier to walk past. In Bangkok, the same is not true.

Here are the questions I struggle with in Bangkok.  I’d would really like to hear your ideas and reactions in the comments. Jammie and I really want to make a difference out here, however we can:

Does the fact that begging is professionally organized make it unwise to give? It’s no secret: begging in Bangkok is an extension of organized crime. Beggars are organized by bosses that function much the same way pimps do in prostitution rings. It is merciless and pure exploitation. There is no doubt the beggar is suffering. The problem with giving them cash is that the money goes back to the bosses and the beggars only get a pittance.  Google “beggar mafia Bangkok” to see what I mean.

Will my giving help? – If the bosses take the cash, how will my giving help? In an immediate sense, giving beggars food instead of cash will help meet needs like basic nutrition. But it does little to address their larger needs like shelter, security and healthcare.

Is it OK to simply help aid organizations? I used to think that the real answer was to give to charitable organizations that would in turn help the people. After spending half a decade in the world of professional fundraising though, I know that a lot of my cash will go to things I don’t support, like executive salaries that are often in the six figure range.

How much is enough? So I am caught in a quandary. I still give to organizations that I believe are ethical, not overly top-heavy and make a difference but between that and the occasional direct gift to someone in need, I think “how much is enough?”

What is the bigger picture? Most professional aid workers I talk to will talk about the big picture of poverty alleviation. Often politics come into play. The right will say that you “have to allow people to fail and learn to help themselves.” The left claims you “can’t pull yourself up by the bootstraps if you don’t have boots” and then tries to justify another government program as a solution. I am not convinced by either approach.

No response is going to be perfect (this is easy to see) but this cannot freeze me in undecided inaction. I’ve got to start somewhere.

As mentioned before, Jammie and I are currently working with an orphanage and with prison visitation. We want to expand our work to help homeless beggars. Help us think of an effective way to help beggars by leaving a comment with your thoughts and suggestions. We are all in this together.

Thanks in advance for your comments!

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Bjorn Karlman Bangkok, Thailand

47 thoughts on “Should You Ignore Beggars?”

  1. As you said, it is fundamentally different to give to a beggar in a place like Bangkok than giving to a beggar in the US. I just think it is important to try and keep emotions out of the decision. Seeing a beggar in a third world country can pull on any person’s heart strings, but if there is a more effective way of dealing with their poverty than giving to them on the street, you should do that instead. To me, the best anti-poverty measures will address the root cause of poverty, and not just alleviate the symptoms. I know a lot of people don’t want to hear it, but international trade is one of the best ways to address poverty. Additionally, there are many programs through NGOs that do micro financing and that sort of thing. These programs help people help themselves and make their self-sustaining. I think that is much preferable than creating government dependency.

    Also, I just looked up Thailand’s economic freedom index score, and they seem to actually have some good policies in place. Where they really seem to need help is rule of law. This is a common problem in third world countries and makes me believe that supporting organized crime in any way, might actually be the worst way to try and fix the problem of poverty in Bangkok. So yeah, my vote is to not give to beggars if you know or are pretty sure they are connected to organized crime.

    1. The organized crime angle definitely feeds the drama. From some of the research I was doing online, there was a lot on how the mafia controls the begging scene and how the most common scenes – women with babies, amputees, etc, are often a scam. Babies are replaced every few hours, the amputee jumps into a nice SUV, etc… So you are right, dealing with this as rationally as possible is better than over-reacting to all the emotion.

      Thanks for the comment, David!

  2. I think I agree with David on the micro-financing and things like that. It feels like it isn’t compassionate not to give the beggars any money on principle, but if it just ends up perpetuating the exploitation, it’s not worth it. Maybe give food and clothing to the beggars, and your money to the preventative programmes out there.

    1. Thanks Karin! I am really interested in the preventative side.. which makes projects in the Bangkok slums even more interesting… Annika – the Swede I mentioned a couple posts back has a program where young women create ornamental clothes hangers for sale to hotels and expats… I thought it was unique.. and it helps provide an income that does not have to be earned through means that exploit the poor…

      1. Hi Bjorn,
        We miss you too and are so impressed with your heartfelt giving and quest to help find solutions to the poverty and begging. It’s a tough problem and I’m afraid I don’t have any new ideas besides the previous posts. I especially like Enocks response. Working with existing charities, providing unity and an impact in organized numbers.

        1. Thanks Pam, thank you for the encouragement! And the two comments!! We are definitely on the lookout for charities that fit the description you outlined… they are definitely a good place to start and to learn. We appreciate your support:)

  3. Salut Bjorn,

    Even with transients in the US, my parents taught me that the best thing was to pay for a meal or physical goods. For any decent, ethical person with even half a heart, seeing someone begging pulls at your emotions. I’ve experienced this both in Chicago and in Europe with begging Roma. Especially in the situation I found myself in with the Roma in Strasbourg, I sometimes wonder if people exploit their children by using them to pull at heart strings and elicit sympathy. If I think of more to say, I’ll post again.

    1. Thanks Marianne! I agree that meals or physical goods are more helpful in the short term… have you come across any shelters that hep the Roma population specifically?

  4. Bjorn–This is a hard problem; any solutions seem elusive. I appreciate your efforts to try to solve it. I have a suggestion: Whenever you and Jammie go out into the city, could you carry with you bananas and grapes and other items so you can give food directly to the beggars? Love, Linda Haddeman

    1. Linda!! Thanks for commenting, I really appreciate it! And yes, I like your idea… Bananas would be cheaper.. I’ll talk it over with Jammie, this will help a little as we work on larger infrastructure questions…

      Much love,

      Bjorn

  5. I think what it comes down to is that there are many ways to help lots of people but everyone is different and everyone has a different type of need. Nevertheless there is one need that all people including people like us have in common with people in Bangkok who beg. We are all people searching for a deeper meaning in life and since we come from a Creator, that meaning can only be found in the light of who He is.

    You can feed someone, but have you fed their deeper hunger? You can shelter someone, but have you sheltered them from their real problems (the enemy). I’m not saying physically feeding or sheltering them is wrong — by all means I believe it is the first and foremost way to reach out — to meet their physical needs, but people crave someone to love them regardless of who they are, someone to genuinely care about their general well-being, and most importantly they crave someone who saves and gives meaning to their life regardless of their immediate condition.

    I think being practical like building a shelter where they can come and find rest and get good food is one place to start. or even inviting them to go out to eat with you. befriending them — something you have a talent for and really caring for them, not as beggers, but as a friend, not as someone you pitty but instead someone who you love and care about because you know who they are. But sometimes we don’t even bother getting to know the people we are helping, we merely give and feel that we have done enough simply by giving material things, but we fail to give ourselves, to spend and be spent for these people. Every one of them has an interesting story worth listening to and everyone is in need of a true friend. So I would suggest to do all those great tangible things that are good and will help these people — but don’t neglect the intangible things that will leave the most profound life changing effect in the hearts of these people. After all, we are all people hungering and begging for the same thing, a meaningful existence…therefore although it may be in a different way or a different context, we are all beggers.

    Best to you BJ and your wifey! May God bless your awesome work in Bangkok — wish i could join you guys out there!

    1. Eli! Thanks for the ideas. And yes, human needs are definitely complex and the physical is just one side of the equation. I like the idea of trying to befriend some of the beggars. I think I will try to identify the beggars that are closest to my apartment and maybe concentrate on a handful.. bring them food consistently and try to initiate conversation in my amazing Thai:) Thanks for the idea!

      Thanks for the well wishes.. tell me if you want anything mailed over from Buenos Aires where we head in 3 weeks:)

  6. Björn, I agree with Eli in the sense of caring. When I give to someone who is looking for help, I usually take a few mi.nutes of my time to talk to the. I have gotten so much out of the meeting. I leave them knowing that I made a difference in their life, and they made a difference in mine. I have gone out of my way to go buy food for someone who looks hungry. I have bought dog food for someone with a dog. I have been given smiles and thanks that have made me feel like a hero. I cannot give to all who ask, but I do try to give to those who look like they really need it. I carry things with me that I can give to someone who is hungry. I have personally known some of the “beggars”. They are, in fact, human beings who hunger not only for food, but for a kind word, andunderstanding. Not for people to look down upon them and snub them. Even if you can’t give them anything, a kind word of encouragement and a smile goes a long way!!!

    1. I like it Marianne… the personal connection definitely goes further than creating a wall of separation and never engaging them on a social level… I admire you for (literally) putting your money where your mouth is!

      Hope all is good in Paradise:)

  7. I think giving immediate gifts would be a better idea than giving money to be used later.. I’m 14 years old (almost 15) and I did not know about that mafia beggars thing in Thailand.. But if you give a starving person food.. That would only prolong the suffering.. Who knows how much he will have the next day.. So I think, if you can’t help them for a long period of time why help them at all? I know it sounds a little harsh.. But that is the reality I have come to.. Kinda like the statement: Sooner or Later?

    1. Tristan! Thanks a lot for commenting. And I totally agree with giving something tangible like food right away… as for the longer term, something more permanent like an organization that helps these beggars might be the way to go.

      Say hi to everyone for me. I appreciate you checking in!

  8. I don’t know about Bangkok but in Nigeria, i’m left speechless with the extent to which poverty takes a toll on lives. Children less than 7 years of age begging for peanuts. Grown men that are not able to walk crawling through the streets in need of money to eat. Women with kids on their back sweating profusely and still gathering the strength to walk around in search of a passerby to help. I don’t have it in me to walk past them. I’m advised by people in the country to look away but i don’t have the heart for it. I give to as many as my eyes can see. Every little helps. That’s what i believe. To the little kids, i give them food i have in the car with me at the time.

    Who knows how many are real and how many are fake. I know of a lady that dresses 2 babies up in same clothes to look like twin. First time i was so touched by the little beauties, i gave her. Then i told later that the 2 kids were not hers and they are not twins. Shes been dressing them like that for years. She changes the kids when they get too big and starts all over again. Call me a sucker but i still kept giving her even after that revelation.

    I think all we passersby do is short term. They do need long term help. A shelter of some sort to help with daily needs like 3 course meals a place to bathe etc. Soon enough you will know the legit ones from the opportunist. Good luck Bjorn, let me know how this goes and maybe i might pick on some ideas for Nigeria from you.

    1. Rele! I love your big-hearted attitude!! Even though there are abuses we cannot allow ourselves to be jaded. And yes, I think a shelter or, as Ethan mentioned, an appropriate NGO, might be able to deal with the bigger picture…
      Thanks again. And yes, I’ll keep you in the loop!

  9. I grew up in Bangkok and the sight of extreme begging there actually brought me to tears on a few occasions – it is really raw to see the degradation. But you’ve deduced already that the degradation was often times self-imposed. Begging can be an incredibly lucrative career. Stunning examples include the New Delhi beggar who owned an empire of houses and land on the outskirts of the city, all paid for by his beggings, or the Thai begger who donated $13,000 to charity. (http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/local/234724/beggar-s-act-of-generosity-to-temple-beggars-belief)
    And if it is not lucrative for the beggar, it can enrich the ‘controllers’ who own them. When you give money to a beggar like that you are either enriching a con, or you are enriching a cruel exploitation system.

    But of course there actually are people on the street in need, who have to beg to find their next meal, or medicine for their kids. The hard part is telling who is who. Apparently, the Thai government is trying to implement a ‘legitimate begger’ identification card that beggers can apply for to show that they are not mafia-owned. (http://voices.yahoo.com/giving-money-beggars-thailand-you-5458237.html) But the system is apparently not wide-spread yet and knowing Thailand, I assume all the mafia begging rings quickly send their beggars out to get ‘legitimate’ cards, too.

    Giving money should always be a no-no. So what does one do? Giving food, especially fruit or something healthy, can’t hurt. It provides a respite from forced hunger. I disagree that alleviating a bad situation will only extend the misery. The mafia folks wouldn’t let their little money-makers starve to death. If you want to get involved, I suggest working with an NGO. There are several that either work to rehabilitate and educate street kids, many who were trafficked to beg. And there are even some, I understand, that take on a more aggressive policing role in detecting and saving entrapped beggars.

    God bless you for making a difference, and for all of the good that you are already doing in Thailand.

    1. Ethan, thanks for the excellent, informed and insightful comment! You have given me plenty of food for thought:) I am especially interested in finding and NGO that deals with this specifically. I’ll do some research. Any ideas where to start?

  10. Well, I think a few things:
    1. You really have answered your own dilemma in your opening post – your concern that by giving cash on the street will just encourage the minders and perpetuate the whole industry (and that’s even worse in places where people are deliberately mutilated so they can lok worse on the street) means that you’re not going to go that route; and I think there’s sense in that.
    2. Even though you are acutely aware of the failings of some big NGOs, you can still find charities which will channel your donations through faithfully to meaningful responses.
    3. Your Christian heart is telling you to care for these people. Let it go the whole way: If you are really concerned and prepared to get involved people need human contact almost as much as they need a handout. Handouts can belittle an individual. Giving your time and quality attention ennobles them.
    4. Sometimes the best thing you can do is spend your resources on a ministry of your own that addresses the real and root problems or intervenes in a person’s life in a powerful game-changing way for them. it sounds to me like you’re already moving that way. Good stuff.
    5. I like bananas too!

    God bless
    c

    1. Thanks a lot Mr. Peake! Nothing like some tips from my favorite RST/LAMDA teacher:)

      And yes, I think the hands-on service direction is probably the one I will opt for…

      I appreciate your checking in!

  11. I think the dichotomy is that in seeing these people, most people’s heart strings are given a tug and desire to help- but only if that will take less than 30 seconds (5 mins, a few hours) when the real problem requires a long term commitment and dedication. If this were an easy problem to fix, it would have been done already. Yes, it’s better to give them something tangible and useful other than money, but as another commenter mentioned, the most valuable gift may be your time. I remember being in Nicaragua it was similar, where mothers would actually train their children to beg. These small children would come cling to our bus, and following their script would say things like “look at me, I have no shoes and my feet are cut, please help me!” Or similarly in Mexico, when in a market my friend could no longer bear the sadness of seeing kids suffering, he tossed a peso toward a small persistent group. When it landed, it was a brutal free for all with small fists fighting and grabbing for the coin before running to return it to whoever was in charge of their begging.

    1. Thanks for the comment Sara…. Yes, the short-term fixes are hardly adequate… or fixes for that matter… I think I am going to look at volunteering at a shelter on a more long-term basis…

    1. Well, I feel a little better then, seeing as you have traveled EVERYWHERE!! Thanks for the comment, Alex, I hope all is good…:)

  12. Bjorn,
    I see you quandry. I have struggled with the same not in Thailand but in other places. Like it has been expressed by others above, the role of government is fundamental in alleviating some of the social issues as you are faced with.
    I will start by saying that you are doing a very good job of attaching yourself with some place/organization that are doing good for the society. For sustained results, it is best to take is piece by piece.
    I have mixed reactions to street begging for reasons pointed out: it feeds into other pimping essentially it is not sustainable. Limit your giving on the streets unless you can determine that a family is in dire need (difficult. I normally ask it they need food, some clothing, water and I would buy these items accordingly.

    It is not unnusual to want to help at every turn but your resources may be limited too. You do not want to bleed resources aimlessly.
    This may sound harsh but if they depend on travelers or the “pimps” run their cartels, how does it help when you give them a dollar today? Be reasonable about your giving.
    This should not stifle your actions: expend your energies with organizations that are doing real and permanent good.
    How’s that for now? Looking forward to reading more.

    1. Thank you Caroline! Very compassionate yet level-headed… I am definitely interested in the role of government. Do you want to expand more on that? I am a firm believer that thing have to change on a systemic level for there to be real improvement… So I like where you are headed..

  13. Well you are off to a good start because the best way to help the poor is to live among them. Seeing people suffer breaks my heart and it’s definitely not something you can ignore – you are certainly asking all the right ??’s.

    When I think of how to help the poor Mother Teresa comes to mind because she helped the poorest of the poor in india. First she lived among the poor, she got medical training which is awesome because so many have health problems due to poor nutrition, she asked for supplies, city officials gave her a building to work out of where homeless could live and be fed.

    You guys are already working with an orphanage and honestly that is the greatest thing you could do is to work with children there to give them hope and knowledge of how to break the poverty cycle! For those under the mafia there – it’s tough to beat the system because everyone is corrupt everywhere you look. The one thing I would say is if you can meet immediate needs over money – do it! Also finding out where these people live and maybe bringing food to their area – bags of rice and cheap stuff. You could even work with restaurants and ask for their food they throw out – I know it sounds gross but “one mans trash is another mans treasure” and it would be totally free! The biggest thing you could do whether you have money or food is to acknowledge them! Look at them not with pity but as a beautiful child of God! Show them his love by looking at them with love and showing them they are important! Sooo many people not only don’t give to beggars but don’t acknowledge they are even there. Take the time to look at them and do something nice for them like wash their feet or brush their child’s hair. Things like that make a difference too! I will be praying for you and asking others to read this!!!

    1. Maria!! I see you have not lost your touch!! I love your ideas. Most of all because they remind us all of the need to acknowledge the relational side of all this. So often people think in terms of stats and issues and forget that real people are at the heart of it all! Thank you so much. You have definitely given me food (sorry) for thought with the practical suggestions. Thanks so much for commenting!

  14. I think you should do what God is leading you to do. Whether it be simple things, like handing out soap bars, and water bottles, or business cards, small packages of fruit, whatever. Do what you feel is necessary, what you feel God is leading you to do. Good luck, God bless, and much love on your journey through this conflicting time.

  15. Beggars – wow, this is a topic that pulls at my heart, and I respect you and Jammie for thinking about how to help, starting a conversation, and getting involved in Bangkok.
    There are so many amazing posts that people have made here – such as Eli pointing out that there are so many needs that people have that need to be met beyond food and shelter, and that without love, food and shelter exist without a context. Or the comment that we are all beggars – we are. And any existence that does not look like a beggar’s existence is through grace and chance circumstance.
    For me, it seems that getting involved on a level with an organization that you trust (or, lord love you, starting one yourself) that works in the community to build relationship and trust with those who are needy is a solid step towards pointing your resources to a place where you can be happy about them reaching the people who can benefit from them.
    You probably know about many organizations that give people who have resources the chance to share them. I won’t fill up space too much with the usual, the Red Cross, etc..
    One way I enjoy giving is towards people who are entrepreneurs. I have so much respect for people who are working in smaller scale economies to create a business. I very much enjoy supporting microloans through KIVA (www.kiva.org) and I hope that the people who receive those loans are enjoying their work, too. I know its not quite the same thing, at all, but here’s the connection I see: the dignity of work. I think that it would be a real joy to find a way to contribute to fill the place where there may be a hole of dignity.
    Thanks so much for starting this discussion.

    1. Melinda! Thank you so much for the comment:) I LOVE the entrepreneurship angle… I definitely feel that giving people these kinds of tools can work minor (and major) miracles in terms of giving them the ability to change circumstances for themselves.. How that practically translates to the specific beggars on the street is, of course, another thing but I really like the idea of supporting a program that at least provides a start in the right direction! Thanks again, Melinda:)

  16. Should you ignore beggars?
    I am still a student of economics, human trafficking, poverty, and the other pieces that factor into why there are beggars and how to help them. I don’t know how to best address these problems. I have learned a few things from reading and traveling and I’ll share them, but they are thoughts in progress.

    1) The frustration I see in your writing is a good thing.
    Your frustration is indicative of engagement and loving the people. When we love, we experience joy and pain. You wouldn’t be feeling this frustration if you weren’t beginning to love. So keep on in that-I have found that when I engage and really wrestle with problems, bring them to God, and through it all love people, I humble myself to be lead by him. I may be a bit biased, but I think that that provides the best solutions to any problem.

    2) Throwing money at things rarely helps, but education does.
    From what I’ve seen, trusting money to fix a problem rarely works. With international aid we’ve been trying to do that for years and have simply created aid dependence. On a smaller scale, giving beggars money, or giving them work for an inflated wage doesn’t really help-it just creates dependence-what are they going to do when you’re gone? I’m more in favor of funding education and programs that are teaching skills to promote self worth and enable people to come out of poverty. So I’d say do that. Help people get to school, help people get microloans. But really, it’s not that simple. Those are long term things that MUST be part of the solution, but they aren’t crisis interventions. You have to do both (short term-feed the man and long term- teach him to fish) because people can’t learn if they are hungry and living in an unsafe environment. That’s the part I really don’t know the best course in. How do you provide all that at the same time, make it sustainable, and not promote dependence? I don’t know. But I know money alone isn’t the answer, and I’m pretty sure engaging with the problems long term is a piece of the right answer.

    3) Don’t confuse activity with progress and long term mediocre beats short term brilliant.
    Often “good ideas” fail because of the lack of insight that comes from getting to know a culture and seeing what factors play into problems. It’s better to be a consistent presence and gradually get better then to implement something quickly and then realize later that you’re hurting more than you’re helping. So, if you don’t have time (years) to really devote yourself to figuring out what’s going on in an area, you are much better supporting people who are established and already doing a good thing. I am not trying to be cynical or discouraging and I know the natural response is to want to DO something tangible, but respect the problems and the people. Find the people that have been there and are going to be there, and do what you can to support them.

    4) Figure out your calling and then do it.
    We’ve all been called to different things. Very simply; do what you are called to do. Not what you think you’re called to do or what you would like to be called to do. Wrestle with God and then do what he tells you to do and leave the rest in his hands.

    But back to the original question. Should you ignore beggars? No. You should not ignore beggars. Acknowledge and engage. Talk to God about it. In my opinion, don’t jump to quick fixes because they don’t respect the people or the problem and don’t help with long term resolution. Struggle with it until you know what to do and then do that to the very best of your ability.

    Praying for you guys!
    Annika

    1. What an excellent response, Annika! One that definitely reflects the fact that you are well-traveled yourself:) I definitely agree that it is preferable to work with the existing infrastructure rather than barging in an trying to pontificate on what is best….

      I really appreciated the nuance response and wish you all the best with your year!

  17. Invest time in setting up a food bank like they have in the uk to provide a bag of daily basics to those who can’t afford food?
    Could do a soup & tea outlet run by volunteers and products donated by supermarkets?

  18. Hi guys and thanks for posing the question Bjorn, firstly I think what you are doing is amazing helping people in need is always rewarding & is the Christian thing to do. My advice is that if there is wide spread poverty which you see everyday on the streets you could check out what other charities are doing to help these people and perhaps work with already existing charities. They may already have a plan of how to go about tackling these problems which will give you further ideas. That’s if you haven’t done so already.

    I’m a firm believer that there is strength and unity in numbers and if you want to make a real impact on a large scale and help as many people as possible you can use twitter, Facebook (like you are doing) to spread the message people will be more than willing to send you some of the things they no longer use such as shoes, shirts, trousers or even cash donations.

    I hope some of my ideas above can be of use and good luck. I have recently set up a care agency looking after disabled and elderly people in London so helping others is a cause that I am passionate about. Please check out our website on http://www.newdaycare.co.uk and keep me posted on how you get on with everything.

    1. Enock! I just “liked” your website. I am seriously impressed with your work, man! I worked doing fundraising for a hospice and other healthcare projects before I took off on this trip so I know it is hard / important work.

      Thanks for the excellent suggestions… I especially liked your online scaling ideas… key if you want a platform… Thanks bro. Looking forward to keeping in touch!

  19. We miss you too, Bjorn! The Chamber just isn’t the same without you! I am so impressed with your heartfelt work and quest to find solutions to the poverty and begging. I’m afraid I don’t have any new ideas besides the previous posts. I especially like Enock’s idea of working with existing charities that you feel comfortable with. I think providing unity in organized numbers is probably the best solution to what is truly a global problem. Wishing you much love and blessings from Paradise! Pam

  20. It’s a tough one! I find it very difficult to walk on by and I often give money because that is all I have. My suggestions for offering more effective help are….
    – signposting. Search high and low for charitable organisations that you trust that provide help (food/shelter/trainingetc) and signpost vulnerable people to them. Spread the word about the different types of help available.
    – help one person. It is overwhelming to try and help everyone – and impossible. Plan to help one person in a major way and you may start a chain reaction.
    – share what you learn about helping. (Perhaps a guide for helping one person) Thailand has many tourists who are willing to help in some way but don’t know how. if you could harness that and direct it (through social media?) then you can make a lasting difference after you leave.

    Those are my quick thoughts – which may be a bit random!

    Kaylene

    1. Kaylene! Thanks for the practical suggestions. I like each of them. I like the idea of directing people towards the right agencies and going small instead of just getting overwhelmed by the scale of the problem.. And yes, social media is definitely the ultimate awareness-raising tool….

  21. I haven’t read all of the comments so my apologies if I’m not adding a unique perspective to the conversation. I have always struggled with whether or not I should give to a beggar. The age old question of where that money goes and if it really is serving a benefit is something I don’t feel like I have the resources to properly answer. Over time, I progressed into thinking that regardless of their motivation that I was going to give when I could, simply because I think it’s the right thing to do and it ultimately made me feel better about myself. My position now, is that this is a very selfish mindset that doesn’t take reality into consideration. My personal beliefs now are that of not only prevention, but as in the cases mentioned above, the disbandment of organized crime rings which prey on the poor. In actuality, and this might be hard to digest, by giving money to a beggar in Bangkok you may actually be doing that person more harm than good. So the answer (not that I pretend to know the answer) isn’t simple, but I think it lies within a framework that starves organized crime. If the general public were to become educated on the dangers of giving money to these people then maybe less people would give – Harsh, I know. You have to try to remove the motivation of those scheming the emotions of good-natured people. The result of doing so could mean that they would go on to something else, maybe something that preys on people who can afford to better defend themselves. What you do in the meantime, is difficult too. Naturally, you don’t want thousands of beggars starving to death, so programs to take these people in once they are no longer getting their needs met is where I would start.

    1. Rob, I like where you are going with this one. Certainly, giving should be intelligent and not just guilt-driven emotional reaction… that is what organized crime takes advantage of.

  22. I think if one isn’t going to give to beggars, on the grounds that they are controlled by criminals, spend the money on drugs, etc., all of which are very reasonable reasons not to give on the street, then the Christian thing to do is to give to a charity that provides responsible and structured care. Otherwise, one is just using it as an excuse not to be generous to the poor, i.e. to shirk our duties as Christians, rather than being responsible in the way one acts as a Christian.

    1. Thanks David, I definitely agree with your assessment. Often we use the scams to justify ignoring the issues completely.. I am definitely not supporting that. I am all for giving to charity if I know that funds are used appropriately… often making this determination takes some major research though:)

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