I am almost daily chased around town by a street kid with one useless leg asking me for money. To get around, he drags his body through the streets using his hands. His hands and clothes are filthy with dirt from the streets that other men spit in. Truth be told, it’s quite alarming. And man, is he FAST!
A week ago, I was in town with two fellow volunteers when the kid spotted us and gave chase. As a general rule, WorldTeach volunteers don't give handouts for three reasons: 1. There are simply too many people asking for money--colleagues, students, people on the street, everyone--and we simply can't help everyone 2. Giving handouts could become a safety concern (I keep envisioning getting mobbed on the streets of Musanze because I gave some kid 100 francs) 3. Most of us are on very tight budgets.
Despite the fact that every time I see him, I tell this kid that I don't give people money, he never gives up. My friends and I continued walking for an entire block with this guy dogging our heels, chanting "Muzungu Muzungu.” Several times we repeated, "Sorry, we don't give out money," as we faced forward and continued walking. In a final effort to shake him, we stepped off a three foot high step, thinking that he wouldn't be able to follow. Wrong. It was only an instant before he was at our heels again. I didn't immediately notice. Incredulous, my fellow volunteer turned to me and said, "How in the world did he get down that step?!" When I looked around and saw him at my feet, I burst out laughing! He laughed too, enjoying the joke of being completely underestimated by us and taking us by surprise.
I thought to myself that if circumstances were different, if we both spoke the same language, this street kid and I would most likely be friends. He seems like a guy with a great sense of humor. Next time he asks me for money, I’ll probably give him just a little. After all, in the grand scheme of things, what’s a few francs between friends?