KARACHI: With the launch of the long-awaited 'Street Store', the poor and homeless families can now shop for free. The store was set up on Sunday at Raiti Line, a slum near Bath Island, Clifton.
Jude Allen, Maliha Adil, Minerva John, Agha Sheraz and Donna Fernandes are the brains behind the store that gives the under-privileged the chance to shop for free, albeit with dignity.
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"We started our planning in the month of September with absolutely no idea but together, we have brought out some amazing ideas to do something special for the poor families," said Fernandes. After a long discussion, we picked out an area and date after the month of Muharram, she added.
It was joy all around the venue, with children gleefully enjoying activities such as face painting. There was also a team of volunteers that included students of Habib University.
The store featured more than 1,000 items, including women and men's clothing, bags, accessories, toys, household items and everything available at a typical market. Women thronged the store, picking items for themselves as well as for their families. Around 70 families attended the event and each was allowed to pick 10 items. “We are overwhelmed by the generous donations we received in just a few days. People from all over the world kept calling us to ask if we needed anything. The whole journey of launching the Street Store in Karachi has been a phenomenal experience,” said Adil
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The idea behind the store originates from The Street Store, a worldwide activity that started South Africa in 2014, aimed at helping the less privileged families by offering them some assistance with clothing free of charge. "This was the 349th Street Store set up in the world in collaboration with Manzil Educational School.”
One of the most intriguing aspects of the store was the inspiration among individuals and volunteers to serve society. Every volunteer had brought goodies for the poor families. "I don't know why but I feel so good helping them," said a volunteer, Farjad Mehdi. "It's more than a feeling of satisfaction to see the children enjoying themselves."
"I want to take a bag and shoes for myself but my mother is so keen on getting a lawn dress," said a child, Ibrahim.
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Another young girl, Saima, told The Express Tribune that she will get a doll as her other friends have so many of them. Besides , women were busy grabbing shawls for themselves ahead of winter. A child, Mustafa, was interested in sweaters instead of toys, while some girls were busy choosing accessories such as bangles, bracelets and hair bands. "I will look for clothes but my kids are insisting on toys instead," said Amber, a woman waiting outside for her turn.
Another woman, Muqadasi Bibi, also shared her thoughts. "I feel blessed because I am taking everything that I need without losing my dignity," she said.
An 80-year-old woman, Aban Jamall, was ecstatic about the event. She had 60 years of experience in social work but looked so fresh as if she was doing it for the first time. Talking to The Express Tribune, she said, "Social work has nothing to do with age. I am so happy that students and youngster are coming to help the less privileged people. This is the true spirit of humanity."
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The team members were very proud of Jamall. "She is not an old woman. I would say [she is] a young woman of 80 years [of age]", said Fernandes.
According to team member John, it was all about spreading happiness. "It is not a game of profit or loss," she said. "It's about satisfying our soul." Talking about the store's expansion, Allen said that they have enough items to organise it again after two months for spring season. "What's wrong with continuing something that satisfies our souls and gives us inner peace?" he asked.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 16th, 2015.
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