The smile on the little boy’s face when the shoe fit is something I will never forget,” says Gayathri Devi, President of RC Erode Cosmos, RI District 3202. She initiated the Wall of Kindness, a project where people of Erode can donate used and excess items that can be picked up by people in need. By the corner of the Kalaimagal School Road, a small store houses these items ranging from clothing, household items, to books and toys to be picked up by the needy. “This is a great way to make sure that what one doesn’t need finds its way to those who need it,” she adds.
She explains that the Wall of Kindness idea is a charity project that has found its way to India from Iran. “During cold weather in Mashhad, someone hung out warm clothes on hangers on a wall with a message: ‘If you don’t need it, leave it here. If you need it, take it.’ Soon donations from neighbours started to appear and fuelled by social media the idea began to spread to other cities.”
The goal of the wall is to reach needy people in the community. In Erode, it is located in two government-aided schools and a hospital. Many people donated items but they weren’t getting picked up. Gayathri says, “Only a few people knew about the Wall of Kindness, so we had to promote it like any other business.” After few months of promoting the Wall on social media and advertising through posters and hand-outs, the number of walk-ins increased. So did the donors.
Gayathri came up with the idea after she came across one in Bengaluru. “I wondered why we couldn’t replicate it at Erode.” There was a lot of work to be done including government permissions, local support and a place to set up the wall. She converted one of the three shops she owns into the Wall of Kindness by investing ₹70,000 in setting up storage racks, iron holders and hangers and proper lighting.
Once the project had gained momentum, the club received 250 pairs of new shoes from a leading sports shop in the city. “Every day we put out 10 pairs of shoes and it surprised all of us at the club that not once did the same child come in a second time to pick up the shoes. We have 10 more pairs to go and are sure it will be taken by needy students,” she says, adding that if the adults “were picking up more than three or five items from the racks for their needs we did not intervene. Now most of them understand and pick just one item from the rack.” This project was inaugurated by PDGs Dr Sagadevan and P M Sivashankaran.