ChildSafe International

This item appears on page 57 of the April 2009 issue.

I read the reader’s letter “Coping With and Fighting Poverty During Travels” (Dec. ’08, pg. 56). The social service organization ChildSafe International ( provides shelter and training for street children in Southeast Asia, and their website contains advice for travelers who encounter children begging or offering trinkets for sale on the street.

Although their advice is written from the perspective of the situation in Southeast Asia, where child poverty is particularly dire, it may be relevant to other poor areas of the world.

The website explains the situation.

In markets and other tourist destinations in Southeast Asia, you might be confronted by beggars, many of them children or adults with infants. By giving them money, you encourage them to stay on the streets, making it harder for social workers to encourage them to find safe sources of income for them and their families and alternatives to street life.

In many areas, children begging on the streets are slaves, with all the money they collect going directly to their owners.

Giving them food or milk has the same results, as it maintains children on the streets, where they are exposed to various dangerous situations.

You might feel pity for children selling various products, e.g., flowers, newspapers or shoeshines. However, by buying from children you support child labor, which puts them at risk because they stay out late and work in hazardous places such as bars and discos.

Children often say that they work to pay for their studies, but surveys clearly show that this is something they say to make a sale. Most children are forced into work and don’t keep the money they earn.

If you want to help, support the local social workers who work with these children and/or buy ChildSafe Certified Products. These products are made by parents so children can go back to school or they are made by former street youth in training so they can find employment.

In addition, ChildSafe members — including mototaxis, tuk-tuks, hotels, guest houses, restaurants and Internet cafés — have been trained to protect children from abusive situations. Check the list of ChildSafe members on the website and keep an eye out for the ChildSafe Logo, then use their services.

The website gives even more advice.


Boston, MA