One Grand Challenge out of a million

|Author: Cristina|

On Valentine’s Day, I was leaving the mall with my Mom, when a little girl tried to sell us roses for 40 rupees. My Mom only had 10 rupees, which she gave to the girl. We began walking away and she kept pestering us. She started getting very upset. She desperately tried to grab our hands and pull us back. She threw a rose at us so we would have to buy it. We walked away into our Uber. It was truly shocking to see a young girl, probably between 10-14 years old, get so aggravated. Usually, it would be considered incredibly rude and ridiculous to act in such a manner towards a customer. But in this case, it was a child. I wondered. Was she so upset because she was physically hungry or thirsty? Was she exhausted and frustrated from not selling enough roses? Why didn’t we give her more money? We had just spent a few thousand rupees inside of the mall on some cute and useless clothes. What is wrong with us? If we had given her money, would it have been spent on something she needed? It seems unlikely that it would impact her future. What kind of excuse is that to not help a child?

A similar incident occurred about a week later. A small, dark-skinned boy asked a group of GCIL students for money. I gave him a few rupees. This time, Casey suggested that an adult may be making the boy work late nights to beg for money, and that giving money is encouraging this system. If you were to do some research on the subject, you would find that, in India, this concern has a lot of truth to it. I tried to think of how we could help children who beg, without encouraging this system. But without dedicating as much effort as we’ve put into our GCIL projects, what are we to do? How can I, or you, help this child? And every other child beggar? And if many beggars (children and adults alike) are turning their money over to beggar pimps, then who do we give money to? Do we stop buying roses from 10-year old girls and the frail mother with a baby on her hip? What about the disabled people? How do we know who is being pimped out and who will be able to keep the money? Do we shrug our shoulders, say we tried, and call it quits with trying to help people?

In Seattle sometimes I give homeless people bananas. Maybe I’ll take the bananas from the canteen and try it here. Sorry, Carmen.

Poverty and child beggars are like one piece of turf in a whole football field of turf: one Grand Challenge out of a million. These Grand Challenges can be incredibly overwhelming and discouraging. The silver lining is that we don’t have to face these issues on our own. People care. That is why we are all here on GCIL. Everyone on GCIL wants to improve the world, may it be through communism or through reducing plastic in the ocean, through technical solutions or through education. Everyone we have met in our NGOs and internships has dedicated months, years, or decades to trial, error, and solving problems. For example, there is Vishwanath, Bangalore’s humble rain man, who never stops trying to solve the water scarcity issue and works hard not to let lower class and lower caste people get exploited. Take Profesora Mariana, from Oaxaca, Mexico, who works for an NGO that empowers indigenous women to start their own small businesses, and helps them invest that money. Take Professor Mike Dodd, from CEE, who uses his own money to fund trips to an orphanage in Honduras, and his free time to make hydraulic designs for the orphanage buildings. As Julian, and our dear Kolodziej, have offered, don’t get discouraged. Focus on an issue, and trust that others are working on the rest.

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