Saturday, June 18, 2011

Street Children

Cars come to a screeching halt at the wave of the traffic police (never mind the stoplights) in the 1.5 million-person city of Kampala. A 10-minute or more wait is not unheard of during rush hour traffic. Most people call this a nuisance, I call it motion economy. The hawkers shove their wares – sunglasses, belts, airtime, maps, sugar cane, and more – into open car windows until the passengers forcefully decline. They move on to the next vehicle.

The children descend on those same passengers in hopes of being given a little money. The streets of Kampala are filled with beautiful, smart, imaginative children. Unfortunately, these very children are often taken from far-away Karamoja (although some are from other places) and made to work as beggars. They have pimps. Even the babies and young toddlers know their role in this giant world. Imagine how your child would respond to being asked to sit on the sidewalk with their tiny hands out for 15 minutes, let alone all day every day. Add to that not speaking the language of the majority of people in the country – the Karamajong children speak Karamajong, not Luganda or English.

Taking pictures is usually met with forceful insistence that payment is required, but upon this occasion I used the logic that they approached me…I didn’t approach them. How odd that we pity the children for how they are forced to live, yet we also find them a nuisance when they come to the car window begging for food or money. Food or money they won’t likely get to keep for themselves.

We lamented over how nice it would be to take these children off the street and love them, educate them, and help them grow. Then we anguished over the fact that they would hardly be let go of their income-generating positions without a serious fight. I pray that God would grant us the wisdom to know exactly how we can make a difference in this crazy world.