In South Africa, the principle of Ubuntu is well-known: “I am what I am because of who we all are.”
The term is widely used yet, 22 percent of South Africans live in extreme poverty and, the gap between rich and poor is the second highest in the world. The haves and the have nots live side by side. It is a place that can open your heart or turn it to stone. It is a place where resourcefulness and ingenuity are imperative.
Unsurprising, then, that it is home to this inspiring initiative.
The Street Store: What began as a simple project in Cape Town is now a global phenomenon.
Founded in January 2014 by Kayli Levitan and Max Pazak, the Street Store is the world’s first rent-free, premises-free, free “pop-up clothing store for the homeless” found exclusively on the street and stocked by donations. The stores replicate the shopping experience, enabling homeless people to select clothes they actually like and need in a way that is uplifting and, at least to some extent, empowering.
Poverty and homelessness are of course global issues, so the founders made all materials available via open source, hoping it would be replicated. This, of course, didn’t guarantee that it would be but, it was—in America, Belgium, Mexico and beyond.
To date, 193 Street Stores have popped up around the world in 119 cities, clothing almost 200,000 homeless people. A further 2,200 are in progress. I just signed up to attend the opening of the 200th Street Store that will be held in Cape Town next month.
What led to its success?
Probably, the simplicity. The desire to make a positive contribution is universal; many are eager to get involved, most are unsure how. This project provides a way. And, while it certainly doesn’t address the root causes of poverty or homelessness, the founders make no pretence that it will:
“We’re not trying to solve the problem of homelessness, we’re trying to give a sense of dignity to the process of receiving donatoions, and we’re trying to bring two sides of society who don’t often interact—the ‘haves’ and the homeless—to meet.” ~ Kayli Levitan
It is a heart-based project that helps those involved to smile, to feel acknowledged, to give and to receive.
“You can’t be human all by yourself and when you have this quality—Ubuntu—you are known for your generosity. We think of ourselves far too frequently as just individuals, separated from one another whereas, you are connected and what you do affects the whole world.” ~ Desmond Tutu
Hosting an event is easy. Visit their site, sign a pledge and send in the required documents. All information is available here.
Watch these moving videos to find out more:
Street Store website
Author: Bianca Marks
Editor: Emily Bartran
Photo: YouTube Still