There are many South Africans who are homeless and live on the streets, and people with signs asking for help is a common sight at traffic lights and street corners around the country. However, a young man from KwaZulu-Natal decided to change, get off of the streets and back on his feet not by begging, but by reading. Meet Philani Dladla, or as he is affectionately known, The Pavement Bookworm.
You don’t need a lot to make a difference. Identify something you love, something you are good at.
Philani’s story reads like something movies are made of. Growing up poor in KwaZulu-Natal, his love of reading started at the age of 12 when he received his first birthday present ever, a book given to him by his mother’s employer. Philani soon grew to love reading, and when his mother’s employer died he left Philani a treasure trove of more than 500 books.
However, as a teenager he made some bad choices and eventually dropped out of school. Philani found himself homeless and living on the streets, his precious bag of books never leaving his side.
Find a way to turn your hobby into something great, for both you and the people in your community.
After seeing people begging for money while doing nothing, he decided it was time to turn his life around once and for all. He wanted to do something different and offer people something in return for their money. It is then when he decided to do what he loved best; read books.
At a busy intersection in Joburg, Philani started reading, reviewing and selling books on the side of the road, earning him the nickname, The Pavement Bookworm. The positive response he got from motorists was overwhelming, buying his books and listening to his reading. They even gave him books to review and sell.
Use your own experiences to learn from, and put back into your community what you have gained yourself.
Philani made a conscious decision to take control of his life by quitting drugs and reading a lot of self-help books, buying food for his homeless friends with the money he made, eventually saving enough to rent a room again. He even started a little book club for children in Joubert Park, something he is very passionate about, and because he believes in the positive effect the simple act of reading can have on people’s lives.
Making a meaningful impact on your own life and in your community starts with just a decision to do it.
Talk of Philani’s reading started spreading, with media outlets reporting on this ambitious young man’s determination to bring about positive change not only in his own life, but the lives of others by reading books and education. These days Philani does inspirational talks all over the country, and his story has even been turned into a book, the aptly titled ‘The Pavement Bookworm: A True Story’ which was published in October last year.
Philani Dladla is an inspiration not only to the poor and homeless in our society, but to South Africans and people all around the world, a true example of turning his life around by choosing to live the #SuperLife.