How to Help Poor Children in India (Or Anywhere)

I’m going to India in a couple of weeks, and I’m troubled by the children who beg for money. Do I give them money or food or neither? If I give money, exploitative adults may take it. My family regularly contributes to Indian charities, but that is small consolation in these heartbreaking situations. What do I do? D.S., MINNESOTA

Your desire to help a child in distress is commendable, whichever of those options you choose. The spectacle of a suffering child is so harrowing, our inability to relieve that suffering so demoralizing, that even experts differ about how best to respond. Martha Nussbaum, a professor of law and ethics at the University of Chicago who has devoted much work to third-world poverty, told me: “My Indian activist friends have different views about giving anything to beggars. Some do it occasionally, some make a policy of not doing it.”

It can be argued that giving money to beggars sustains a culture of begging and, in the most horrifying cases, motivates criminals to force children to beg and even to maim those children to make them more poignant and profitable beggars. But it is poverty itself, not ad hoc generosity, that perpetuates begging. The real, albeit daunting, solution is to lift these children — these nations — out of poverty. That is the approach Nussbaum herself takes, as your family does, by steadily contributing to organizations with the expertise and commitment to take on this challenge. “I think that Unicef is probably the best choice,” she says, “since it has excellent programs in India.” But there are many groups doing admirable work.

update: D.S. has returned from India, where she responded “on a case-by-case basis.” She sometimes gave money to a child whose parents were present and seemed by their dress to be rural migrants, newly arrived in the city and struggling to find work. More often she gave food, particularly to children she feared might be exploited by adults who would steal her donated money.

11 thoughts on “How to Help Poor Children in India (Or Anywhere)

  1. Kavitha

    I am an Indian and whenever I see a beggar, I immediately see if there are any shops that provide food around and buy them food packets. If there are none, I just give them some money to feed themselves and move on. I also buy vegetables, rice and pulses and donate to my maid and sweepers occasionally apart from giving their salary. Though I cannot afford huge amounts of money I do this often in a small way as there are none to feed those on streets. Nowadays I have planned to make it compulsory at least once or twice a month or whenever possible. According to me joining NGOs are not the only way to help people. In reality, God gives us many opportunities to help others and we can do it out in our own way. Just visit thebetterindia.com site to know about how many people are doing great voluntary work single-handed lay for the betterment of the poor and for the society in one way or other. You ll truly get inspired.
    Also you can support these volunteers by involving in their causes.

    Reply
  2. metta rajsekhar

    Sir,am rajasekhar am starting a helping commitity for poor children who are beging road side.plz help me in fund or money to keep my commitity in good process yours faithfully rajasekhar .plz if any one interested plz mail me mettarajasekhar123@gmail.com

    Reply
  3. anusha

    i am studying in class 8th iam really small to help others but my aim is to remove poverty and child labour in india i’ll try my best to do it

    Reply
  4. sanju

    how do i know that the money is used for the welfare of the kid and its not taken by an adult to misuse i really want to help out a NEEDY child to whom i can send to school and then slowly increase the number of kids… can ne one help

    Reply
  5. james rao

    i am always try to help poor children but i dont have that much money to help then i am working under n.g.o arunachal pradesh but my salary is to law if some one help this poor children it very greatfull to you my contect no is 09863358227

    Reply
  6. priya

    i m a student of class 11th. i know i m too small to help someone, but i really want to..tell if if i can do any kind of help . i would love to do so.
    thanks
    manisha

    Reply
  7. MUKESH KUMAR SINGH

    HI ,
    I AM WORKING WITH A N.G.O. WHICH IS KNOWN AS GREEN PLANET SANSTHAN IN RURAL AREA OF UTTAR PRADESH INDIA , IF U WANT TO HELP POOR STUDENT FOR THEIR PROPER EDUCATION , U CAN HELP THEM BY US . MY MOBILE NO. 9616630766 AND N.G.O. IS ON FACEBOOK AS GREEN PLANET SANSTHAN . FOR MORE DETAILS U CAN MAIL ME – mailme.msingh@rediffmail.com .
    THANKING U .

    Reply
  8. parvinder

    hi i m parvinder(kunal)
    i m live in south Delhi tall how can help poor children i m now rich but i m computer engineer i m teach poor children i give 2 hour not par day weekly ma be 3 day 4 day
    plz tall me there any institute plz all friend you not rich but u will do some help u share u r some nolag u give your some time and i know u feel very happy
    and tall me any poor children camp
    me email id is sen2me.kunal@yahoo.com
    ph :9990744123

    Reply
  9. Gillian Lidstone

    I am going to India very soon and would like to take something for the children.
    When i went to Egypt i was told to take some pencils for them as they couldnt get any.
    The children flocked around us and were so happy with something as simple as a pencil
    I would like to do a simalar thing on this trip to India but not sure what to take.
    Would be grateful if someone could tell me what would put a little smile on a face.
    Thanks Gill

    Reply
  10. Abraham

    I live in Anantapur, India. I left my job to work for the needy here and I volunteer for few NGOs too. I know lot of villages here where children require immediate help, children who work in the farm, children who don’t go to school and just play whole day long, children whose parents are infected with AIDS.
    I try to generate awareness to the best of my abilities. However I have a strong feeling that they need much more than this. Please could help me with resources where I can find help like sponsors for these kids. And how I should approach.

    Regards
    Abraham Simons
    abrahamsimons@gmail.com

    Reply
  11. mercerd

    interesting material, where such topics do you find? I will often go

    Reply

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