One of my first memories of Albania was being mobbed by children begging for money. I had just entered the country at the port in Durres. I was in my car, alone, and about 10 young Roma children were banging on the windows with their hands held out. I didn’t know what to do. On the one hand I figured they were from very poor families who were desperate money. On the other hand I didn’t want to encourage them by giving them money. It’s a difficult situation which many travellers are faced with when visiting poorer parts of the world.
That was 10 years ago when Albania was still struggling after the fall of communism and civil unrest. Poverty was widespread and some saw tourists as easy targets. But a lot has changed in Albania over the last 10 years. There is still poverty, especially with the financial crisis in Greece which has been tough on Albania migrant workers, but it’s not like before. The standard of living has greatly improved and there’s a growing middle class. So why are children still not going to school and instead being forced to beg for money?
It’s often minority groups like the Roma people who are still living in abject poverty and many (but not all) of the children you see begging on the streets are Roma. But it’s not just children begging for money, they can also be taken out of school to sell to tourists. Another example of children being exploited in tourism is ‘orphanage tourism’ which is popular in countries like Cambodia as Becki recently wrote about.
What To Do About Children in Tourism
I’m currently working with Better Child Protection which is an organisation promoting responsible tourism and helping vulnerable children. To find out what you can do to help support responsible tourism please like their Facebook page here:
Have you come across children being exploited in your travels? What do you think, if anything, can we do about it?1