The image of children — a lot of them Syrian refugees — begging in the streets of Beirut is common.
But exploitation can be common, too, as ill-intentioned people send those kids to the streets to beg for money, and then take it from them.
A new type of currency, spearheaded by a grocery store chain, was issued in Lebanon in an effort to combat this. Called Good Notes and worth about a dollar each, they are coupons sold to people who then give them to street children.
The vouchers can be exchanged for food, medicine or other products.
"Lebanese are not donating to children in the street as before because we don't know where the money is going, if it's going to another person benefiting from the child,” said Shawqi Bou Khalil, manager of Bou Khalil Supermarket. “So we thought of the Good Note, which replaces money."
The campaign was launched last month, and now other locations — including a local bookstore — are participating.
"Our customers are people who like to read, and like change, and we want change to start here,” said Fadi Mansour of Dar Bistro bookstore, “and a Good Note is an initiative that will change a lot of things for marginalized children, or those in the streets without any sources for a dignified way of living."
So far, the reception for the Good Note has been incredibly positive.
"Honestly, this is something that we really need now,” said Beirut resident Mira Huballah. “If we don't help them in any way, someone else will take advantage of them."
Lebanon is home to more than one million Syrians who fled their war-torn country — the highest per capita concentration of refugees in the world.