Countless on the streets of Senegal, boys, some as young as 4 years old, wander barefoot with plastic cups in their hands, dirty, clothes half missing or torn, begging for change in the darkest of places. They scurry alone across busy streets, small enough to be unseen below a driver’s dashboard, onto the next pitying glance and dismissive gesture.
They are orphans by either natural cause or by intentional circumstance, given by their parents to men who falsely call themselves “imams”, who promise parents money, schooling and safe boarding, but who put these children out to the streets to beg, only to take their earnings at the end of the day, or at times beat them for not earning a quota.
They are truly “the least of these”, and i never saw a smile from any of them.
There was tremendous noise and chaos all around this boy when i took his picture. cars and motorcycles honking, engines gunning, street musicians playing, people yelling, pouring out of stores into busy streets as the siesta time began. He sat totally still, right in the thick of things but completely apart from it, empty bucket at his side, looking for all the world like he was fully somewhere else in his mind’s eye.
I have been asked several times, with a just glint of misgiving and disapproval, how i felt “comfortable” taking photographs of children like this. My answer is the same: I was not comfortable with anything about this situation, but the greatest exploitation of these children is a world of educated people ignorant of their plight, unaware of their existence. that’s why I took this picture. some may disagree, but I will make no apology for it.
Photo by Dana, Pacific Northwest - USA.