If you really want to help children living on the streets, don’t give them money

2012-12-04 00:00

WITH schools closing in a few weeks’ time and with the festive season approaching, it is possible that more vulnerable children will be seen at street corners and at traffic lights, as they try to find the means to survive.

But the street culture makes it challenging for concerned citizens to intervene and provide support, and people have different perceptions about young people on the street and respond in different ways when they meet them at traffic lights.

The majority of children living on the streets and begging at street corners have been in the care various welfare organisations.

Youth for Christ’s (YFC) Khayalethu Outreach Programme is an organisation that works with young people struggling with street life, by using different interventions.

Support is given with the intention of encouraging young people to make a positive decision to leave the life on the streets: it is not this organisation’s intention to make the streets a more comfortable place to stay.

Giving money to young people on the streets is likely to be used to buy and abuse mind-altering substances.

For members of the public who want to help street children, YFC discourages handing out money. Instead, it advises talking to the children and building a trusting relationship. Should you wish to offer something, it should be for when they have left the streets and are back at home. An agreement of offering the young person something for his or her development and better future must be for when he or she has left the streets.

For older youth, encourage them to leave the streets. Tradespeople and skills-development companies can offer them opportunities once they have returned home.

The YFC Khayalethu Outreach Programme is available to assist in identifying and supporting these young people. They have remarkable talents that are hidden and unrealised, and the organisation’s plea is for these children to be given opportunities for development in various fields, such as vocational skills development, sports, music and art.

Spend a few minutes talking to a child or young person on the streets, or make contact with Child Welfare or the YFC Khayalethu Outreach Programme to intervene.

The child can refuse your offer to befriend and support him or her, but you would have offered something positive.

For more information, contact the YFC Khayalethu Outreach Programme at 033 394 4057.

 

• Sifiso Mdluli is the YFC Khayalethu Outreach Program co-ordinator.

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