PESHAWAR: Most of the walls in the posh neighbourhood of Hayatabad are drab structures of white and concrete; others have no paint at all. A bright yellow wall, breaking the monotony, stands out with the curious addition of clothes, hanging in various colours and sizes.
This is Peshawar’s wall of kindness, a charity wall installed on the main road. Any passerby, who wishes to donate used clothes for the homeless and poor, is welcome to drop them off here.
Asad Ali Lodhi led a two-day drive with his organisation Serve Mankind requesting locals not to trash their used clothes, especially warm garments that can be used in the winter.
“If you don’t need it, leave it and if you need it, take it,” they told people. The phrase comes from the original wall in Tehran — Deewar-i-Meherbani — which inspired Lodhi to kick start Serve Mankind and set up the wall.
People in terror-torn Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) might be adversely affected by day-to-day violence, but are always willing to help each other out, Lodhi believes. The general public, in fact, has responded with overwhelming generosity, bringing clothes for men, women and children, undergarments, shawls, jackets and coats. There are also some shoes, bags and purses and wallets.
“Some people have even donated new clothes,” Lodhi says.
Lodhi says over 500 homeless and poor people have found clothes through the wall. This is particularly helpful to people during the chilling cold of Peshawar and at a time when nights can get icy. 50-year-old Aslam Khan is one such beneficiary; standing in front of the striped wall, he sports a blue jacket he picked up earlier this week.
“I had nothing to wear [before this] to fight this year’s winter,” Khan says, applauding the idea of the wall and people’s charity. He fiddles with the pockets inside his jacket, ensuring it isn’t torn from inside.
Serve Mankind, which is led by students of Iqra National University and the Institute of Management Sciences, has transformed other walls in Peshawar’s neighbourhoods in the past. A few months ago, students teamed up to revamp dirty boundary walls of tertiary care hospitals by pasting posters and painting vibrant murals. The otherwise mundane walls now have artistic works adorning them.
Asad Lodhi says his mission is to serve humanity by initiating similar projects. He recalls last year’s ‘Iftar dinner’, a community-led programme that provided Iftar to over 200 poor and homeless people on Peshawar’s streets every day during the month of Ramazan.
Lodhi’s projects are not backed by any government support. “Our projects are run by volunteers and youngsters,” he says. And Lodhi believes that is enough. “All we need is encouragement and volunteer support.”
Omer Nasim, a medical student at Peshawar’s Rehman Medical College, is the artistic mind behind the murals. He painted the boundary walls outside the city’s hospitals, and now the Wall of Kindness. There is a running theme in his artwork: flowers. “Peshawar was once known as the city of flowers,” he explains. “The aim is to get that colour and beauty back.”
People are more attracted to artistic murals than planned paintings with block letters, Nasim feels. The biggest problem, however, is getting permission to paint walls of government-run buildings.
“The government applies delaying tactics and turns down our requests,” Nasim laments. “All we want to do is add colour to Peshawar’s walls to make them attractive.”
Only days since the wall went up that it has brought hundreds to its fore. Ibrarullah is a university student who lives in a hostel, making ends meet. Despite his limited finances, he brought along some used clothes and shoes to donate.
“A lot of students have spare clothes and garments lying around,” he says. “This is the best way to donate them — to the poor and the homeless.”
Saima Bibi works as a domestic worker at a house in Hyderabad. She is a widow with two daughters and a son, and has to live on daily wages of Rs300. She was travelling to her work from the city's Firdous area when she saw the bright-painted wall with hooks nailed in it. When she learned that the clothes hanging off the hooks were for people who needed them, she got excited.
“This is helpful for poor people who might feel shy begging for things like clothes,” she says. “I took clothes for my daughters and my son. For poor people, this is a wall of kindness in the real sense.”