I’m no Don Germaise – digging irrigation ditches in Haiti on my vacation, but I believe every tourist has a chance to help people in the places we visit (or at least hurt them less). It comes down to little decisions.
As soon as I got out of my car in the colonial city of Granada, Nicaragua, I was set upon by a scrawny 10 year old boy grimacing with hunger, rubbing his belly and saying “Papa! Hungry!” This is a scenario that distinguishes the U.S. from the third world. We have plenty of panhandlers, but ours are usually adults.
What to do? Since I was fresh off the bus in an unfamiliar place, I did nothing- hurrying into my hotel to check in. Later that night, strolling down a touristy street of bars and restaurants, I stopped to read the menu at O’Shea’s Irish Pub. The menu featured the usual pub grub, but what struck me was this amazing message on the back page. Take a minute to open the photo and read:
The gist of this message is that the child beggars in Grenada, which few exceptions, are neither homeless nor hungry. Kids are cadging money to buy the fast food burgers and hot dogs they see the tourists eating rather than eat the rice, beans, meat and vegetables they’re likely getting at home. Some skip school, or worse yet, turn over their gains to a “Fagan” like adult,
Bottom line, your ‘generosity’ is contributing to truancy, runaways, drug abuse and sexual exploitation. It was a wake up call I did not expect to find on an an Irish Pub menu. The message goes on to list local shelters and food banks that really do need your dollars.