Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Happy Halloween!

Halloween in Kosovo is not much different that it is in the US.  Little ghouls and witches flood onto the streets in the search for sweets.  I saw fairy princesses and the favored costume for boys this year appeared to be Batman.  The thing that marks a considerable difference between Halloween in the US and Kosovo is the apparent lack of concern by parents and the local government as to the safety of children trick-or-treating at night.  Last night there were no street lights on in the city either due to power conservation or a lack of maintenance by the city.  This meant children were racing across darkened streets in the middle of traffic where drivers were hard pressed to see anything.  The second thing that greatly annoyed me was that parents were sending small children (6-8 years old) out on their own.  Never in my wildest dreams would I expect to see two little girls wandering out in the dark by themselves trick-or-treating! 
This quickly turns into a commentary on the lack of child protection and social programs for children that there are in Kosovo.  I regularly see children bouncing around the backseats of speeding vehicles in Kosovo without safety harnesses or even worse, leaning over the middle console of the vehicle to see how daddy is driving.  It boggles the mind to know that if something should happen and the parent breaks quickly that the child could quite easily end up going through the front windshield.  Yet the local law enforcement do nothing more than drink machiato in the cafes.

I am always urging people not to give money or buy things from the street children.  It is a abomination that these children are forced out on the street to sell peanuts, chewing gum, or Kleenex to whatever international takes pity on them.  Giving them money or buying something from them just reinforces their worth to their parents or guardian that the child can make a profit for them on the street and out they go again the next night.  I'm not saying don't take pity on the children...just don't give them money.  When it is cold, buy them a hot chocolate...or a coke during the summer.  Just don't give them anything that can be taken away by the slave-driver that sends them out to beg!

I often have to ask the question of how can we stand by with so many international organizations around and continue to let these children loose on the streets late at night?  It doesn't seem that protecting children or children's rights are high on anyone's agenda...but it should be as these children are the future of Kosovo!