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Begging in Lima

Begging and Beggars in Lima

How to deal with beggars in Lima

Even though over the past 20 years the Municipality of Lima took significant efforts to remove beggars from the streets, it's a common thing to see many of them hanging around; especially in the areas where tourist are.

Begging adults in Lima

For many beggars, begging is the only way to gain at least some income. In Lima, about a quarter of the population lives in poverty. That’s roughly 2.5 million people. Looking at the slums surrounding the Peruvian capital and additionally taking the thousands of people earning probably US$250 per month (if they are lucky) or less into consideration, you soon realize, after 1st world standards, there are even more people that need help.

So, if you are one of these good-hearted souls who wants to do something good for someone, just gift a smile, a Sol or two or even five or get some food. Or if an old grandma wants to sell you some chewing gums or sweets, you can make her day by buying some.

However, while there are many honest beggars who are just trying to make some money to survive, unfortunately, there are people, who brought begging to the next level, trying to cheat you out of money with some sob story. Don’t fall for it.

So, for example, your taxi driver, bus driver, tour guide, a waiter in a restaurant or even a nice young lady from the street is asking you for money because his/her child is in hospital. He/she tells you a heartbreaking, very detailed story explaining how sick the child is, but he/she can't afford urgently needed drugs. If the kid doesn't get the special, of course, very expensive life-saving drug, it will die in a few days (and so on...).

Coming from a developed country, this or similar stories will surely touch you and, of course, you want to help. But please start thinking before you open your wallet! A lot of these stories are totally fabricated just to arouse your pity and rip you off. Although everything sounds true and, of course, serious, don't take the chance and like many before you be fooled out of hundreds of dollars. If you still feel you need to help, don’t hand over any money. Check the story, offer to go with them to the hospital and visit the sick (?) patient and if the story checks out and you made sure the child you have visited needs this or that offer to buy it.

Furthermore, don't feel safe if a compatriot you meet when traveling, or a foreigner supposedly as well traveling is asking you for money. Unfortunately, some have adopted above mentioned dishonest behavior. They might as well tell you a piteous story, for example, that they were robbed and need some money to get to the airport, just to get to your money. Here as well, don’t fall for it and check out the story before helping.

Begging children in Lima

Unfortunately begging children are nothing uncommon on Lima’s streets. But even if it sounds heartless, please think twice before giving money to children. These kids are in most cases forced either by their parents or by some gangs to beg or to sell sweets and candies. Often, they are transported to "good" areas in the morning, left on the streets the whole day and picked up in the evening, hopefully having enough money to satisfy the parents or gangs. Or they must ask people for money with some unscrupulous adults waiting around the corner.

You can be assured that the kids won't have anything from the money given to them by good-hearted people. They must hand all of it over. This is child abuse that shouldn't be supported

If you just cannot pass these kids without doing something, offer them a drink or some food, a fitting shirt or even a small toy or school supplies.

Many district municipalities in Lima, churches and NGOs are trying hard to stop children begging and getting them off the streets. "Say no to begging" is one campaign which is related to a special social project where the children are provided with a free lunch every day. This might not seem a lot, but for the kids and their parents free food is essential. Other projects include helping disadvantaged families with clothes, food, school supplies, etc.. We highly recommend supporting these projects.

You should also be careful when "mothers" with babies or small children on their arm ask you for some money. Most of these "mothers" aren't the real mum of the baby they have with them. Unbelievable, but true, they just rented the infant to arouse pity and make money. A few years ago, leaving the church in Miraflores with my little daughter, even I was approached by a well-dressed lady who wanted to rent my little girl. She told me if I agree to the deal, we both could make lots of money out of her. I was so shocked that I couldn't even answer and just left, holding my daughter tight.

Our conclusion

For many people from 1st world countries, who stay in the beautiful and wealthier districts of town, seeing the level of poverty in Lima first hand can be shocking. If and how you want to help is up to you. Follow your heart but don't let yourself be ripped off by dishonest people. And before you waste your money on people who aren't really in need and just want to take advantage of your good heart, better use official channels to support local projects.

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  • This commment is unpublished.
    Bianca · 05/06/2023
    I'm currently planning a trip and do want to bring maybe supplies or donate to a trusted source but i know that even in the states its hard to know who to give it to to get it where its actually needed and not a scam. Are there any trusted places that i may be able to drop off donations like clothing or school supplies or food?
    • This commment is unpublished.
      • LimaEasy
      · 05/06/2023
      @Bianca Hello Bianca,

      What a lovely idea.

      Before Covid we had a quite extensive “Volunteer” section with many fantastic and trusted organizations on LimaEasy, which is currently offline as the information there is outdated, some organizations suggested there seem to have disappeared and we haven’t been able to check with everyone and verify the current situation.

      At the moment we are working on getting the section updated and online again, which hopefully will happen in the next couple of months.

      We found that lots of organizations nowadays prefer monetary donations or have very specific donation “wishlists”.

      Anyway, bringing some warm clothes or school supplies is never wrong and when traveling, especially in the Andes, you surely will find more than grateful recipients on your way.


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