To Give Or Not Give

16 October 2007, Tuesday

(Part 1 of our trip to Siem Reap)

That is the question that constantly plagued Hubs and I when we visited Siem Reap some weeks back. Apart from visiting the astounding ruins of what we have come to know as Angkor Wat and its surrounding temples such as Angkor Thom; Hubs and I were overwhelmed with the level of poverty and the sight of grubby children and pleading young mothers with comatose babies can be pretty hard to bear.

So it's an aged old question for us, and we all know that most of the time pity is what moves us to give but is giving always the right thing to do? Also, due to this tourist habit of giving in to child begging, many of the poor Khmer parents are forced to send their children to beg while they stay at home. According to Friend's International, Khmer children have the capacity to earn up to 10 times more as compared to their parents take home pay if they were both working full time.

Some of the most disturbing scenes of beggars in Cambodia are those involving mothers with young babies. Hubs and I experienced this during a boat ride out in the Tonle Sap Lake. During a leisure stop by the tour guide, a small sampan guided by a young mother and her 3 children – a teenage girl, a young boy around 5 years old and a baby stopped by our boat. As though on cue, the teenage girl started to plead with me to buy a can of soft drink or some bananas; the little boy (only in short pants) was crying and it was obvious his mother was scolding him. We didn’t know what the girl was saying (they were Vietnamese), and all I understood was these 3 words "Please … buy something". I was cajoled into buying a can of soft drink for USD1, of which I gave to the boat driver. They awful thing was that as soon as they kayaked away, the teenage girl stopped her pity look and talked in normal tones with her mother and the boy had stop crying altogether. They were heading towards their next target some 100 meters away…

Here are some photos we captured of the Floating Village where Khmers and Vietnamese (we were told they were refugees) live together:





to be continued..

Note: NGO's and welfare workers in Cambodia seek for tourists to help children and the community through various alternatives. They have a huge network managed by Friends –International with the support of Cambodia Ministry of Tourism, USAID, UNICEF, AusAID amongst many others.

8 comments:

Nadia said...

Sigh. Sometimes they are so fake that the real needy ones are not given because we tend to be so skeptical of everyone. But then again, I pity themlah. Their level of poverty is so bad! Poor children and babies!

jazzmint said...

it's the same in hanoi when I was there...

Anonymous said...

Hi MM--wonderful photos. I think we should give because it helps us develop better, not because someone is needy. Our giving someone in poverty a few dollars will not alter their situation. But if we give as a way to learn how to detach from our things, well, maybe something changes?

slavemom said...

Sometimes when we see such poverty, it really opened up our eyes. Shld be happy n contented with our good life here.

huisia said...

feel like crying here :)

chanelwong said...

it is not an easy decision.
Pity them also...

Zara's Mama said...

I didn't give anything to those extending hands the last time I went.

But I took a photo of a child 'accidentally' and he chased me a few hundred meters to ask me to pay him USD1. :-|

Better don't give.

WMD: Wife, Mother, Daughter said...

The same question runs through my mind also quite a bit when I see such things.

I was in BKK the other day and for two weeks I saw this lady with her 9-10 year old son begging on the street. For the two weeks I passed by her, the son is sleeping. It makes me wonder if the boy has been drugged to stay sleepy.

I read about the NGO activities recently and perhaps that is a better way for us to contribute.