The Coffee Shack “Community Basket” project was started because we realised that guests were often leaving items of clothing or shoes behind…intentionally? We placed a laundry basket in the lounge of the hostel and advised guests that if there was anything that they no longer wanted or that couldn’t fit into their backpack, they were welcome to place it in the basket and we would collect and distribute the items among the local families.
Once we had collected about 20 black bags of goodies, we sort through all the items and ensure that the clothes are presentable. We separate the clothes into women’s, men’s and children’s and then pack boxes with an equal amount of men/women/children’s clothes and shoes. There are normally about 70- 100 boxes which get distributed out. We go and do a community drop-off about every 10 months and currently distribute the boxes to 4 different villages.
Thanks to Coffee Shack Backpackers’ generous guests, we have presented these clothing boxes to hundreds of families over the years and because of the extreme poverty in the area, these distribution days are real highlights in the lives of our communities. When we go and do a drop-off, one of the staff always explains to the community that these clothes come from the guests who stay at Coffee Shack Backpackers, (the mlungus they see with packs on their backs?).
We encourage the community to teach their children not to harass visitors to the area, but rather to welcome and befriend them, and try and speak to them.
The 2009 drop-off:
On Thursday, 30 April 2009, we went and did a drop off at Jonga village. Lindani, Debbie (a guest) and myself did this drop-off. The most classic thing that happened on this drop-off was a really old, local man, who walked with a big stick. He arrived at our first stop just as we were leaving, so he had to slowly make his way to the 2nd drop off point and luckily got there just in time! Lindani explained to the community members who we were and what we were doing and then we handed out the boxes. The really old man received his box and was looking through the clothing on top, when suddenly his face lit up! In the bottom of the box was a pair of “Birkenstocks” – male, big size……..brand new! He put them on and they were a “perfect fit”, except the straps that went over his foot were a bit too loose. Debbie knelt down and said, “I can adjust these for you”, which she promptly started doing. These size 10, brand new, brown Birkenstocks brought the biggest smile to this “madala’s” face, and as he rejoiced, he lifted his stick into the air! If whoever left those Birkenstocks in the Community Basket is reading this, please know that that old man will have comfortable feet for the rest of his days, thank you!