He sits outside the store where I buy my groceries.
– Hey hey, he says. How are you?
Meeting him awakes a lot of different feelings within me. First, I feel sad and discouraged about the fact that a fellow being has to sit outside, day after day, in the cold to beg for money in order to provide for himself and his family. Then comes the feeling of guilt because I have everything I need while he is sitting there… Together with the feeling of guilt, there is an awakening frustration, making me uncomfortable when encountering this man. I have a need for freedom of choice and leaving a coin in his cup is not the way I wish to contribute.
Instead, I have sometimes bought him a grilled chicken in the store or paid for a kebab and a Coca cola in the pizzeria while changing a few words with him. Maybe that is why matters are brought to a head. One thing is to buy a sandwich and a cup of tea to one of the beggars in the city that I will probably not see again. It is completely different to start buying food to the same person.
Meaningfulness is important to me as well as contributing to a better world. I do ask myself however, how meaningful my gift to the beggar really is as it is not based on a relation of reciprocity and equal conditions. The fact that I give from my abundance the times I choose to do so creates a relation based on my advantageous position and him being at a disadvantage. Besides, I see my gift as a drop in the ocean. How much would he need to change the situation for himself and his family? And there are so many more in the same state as this man sitting by the store. How can I help so that what I do actually do help?
This February (2016), the final report, Framtid sökes (Wanted: a future), was presented by the national coordinator for vulnerable EU citizens. This report has given me a lot of clarity and hope. The remit of the national coordinator for vulnerable EU citizens has among other been to “support work being conducted by government agencies, municipalities, county councils and organizations that come into contact with vulnerable EEA citizens staying temporarily in Sweden, i.e. no longer than 3 months, and who do not have the right of residence.” 
In the English summary of the report one may read that ”Giving money to a person who begs is likely to cement the role of the beggar and not lead to any long-term change for the group. Children’s education is likely to suffer and the role of the beggar is likely to be passed down to the next generation.” 
The report encourages instead Swedes to support the several Swedish NGO’s that are active in the beggars’ home countries, Romania and Bulgaria. The strategic and methodical work of these organisations does lead to improvements of peoples’ living conditions. Organisations mentioned in the report, having increased their support during the last year are: The Red Cross, Heart to Heart, Star of Hope, Läkarmissionen, ERIKS Development Partner and SOS Barnbyar.
The organisation Heart to Heart has a development project aimed to help 4000 peasants out of poverty. The project includes, among others, education, health care, and courses for creating your own business. Together with a local foundation, Heart to Heart has started a social company where 25 people are working, manufacturing traditional baskets. Paying tax on their salary, the employees are now as well included in the country’s system of social insurance. Heart to Heart has also supported a commune’s peasants to start an association in which they cooperate about e.g. purchases. Thanks to the positive development in this commune, many migrants are now returning home. Here you may find more information about the project:
What I want to do now:
Since the late 80’s, I support the international work of Church of Sweden. After reflecting on how I can contribute to a better situation for the vulnerable EU citizens that come here, I have contacted the administrative centre at the church and asked for my monthly contribution to go to project P220 in Romania. This is also a project including education for children and young people as well as employments for adults.
Last summer I created a photography portfolio. Having no business of my own, I have decided that payments for prospective sales of my photos should go to some of the organisations with which I sympathize. My idea is also that, if the buyer agrees on it, a note will be added on a photo blog about what picture has been sold, to whom, for how much and which one of the organisations that will benefit from the sale. The portfolio is here:
More to read for those interested:
The complete report from the national coordinator for vulnerable EU citizens:
(The Swedish report includes a 5 pages English summary)
Ladda ner = Download
Press release about the presentation of the report:
Church of Sweden – International work:
 Framtid sökes. Slutredovisning av nationella samordnaren för utsatta EU-medborgare (SOU 2016:6) p. 16.
 http://blogg.svenskakyrkan.se/internationelltarbete/2015/11/03/rumanien-projekt-for-romer-gor-framsteg/ https://www.svenskakyrkan.se/p220 (both links are only in Swedish)