Instead of begging for money on the street corner, Philani Dladla, 24, has made a living and a name selling books and giving strangers book reviews.
Dladla, who grew up in KwaZulu Natal, began using drugs after he moved to Johannesburg, South Africa, One reported. When he couldn't find work, he began begging on street corners to support his drug habit.
“While living on the streets I noticed how many beggars there were getting money for nothing on street corners,” Dladla told One. “I thought I could be different and actually give people something worthwhile – like a book or book review – in exchange for money.”
Dladla began selling books that he had read and even altered their prices to reflect his reviews of them. The prices ranged from $1 to $6 depending on how much he had enjoyed them.
Dladla quickly became known as the “Pavement Bookworm.”
Finally, Dladla decided to give up drugs and began using the money to help himself as well as others. He often bought bread and soup for others living on the street.
“Seeing their smiles motivated me to keep using the little I had to spread happiness,” Dladla said. “From that point on, I knew I never wanted to go back to being a drug addict.”
As Dladla’s reputation grew, he organized a Book Reader’s Club for underprivileged children in a local park. Kids often sat with him and read until their parents could pick them up.
Dladla gives books to children on the condition that they return and tell him what they learned. Despite some children never returning, it's Dladla's hope that some of the children will use literacy to help fight poverty.
According to Dladla, the book club is about more than just reading. He and the kids also discuss the hopes, dreams and challenges in their lives.
Dladla has become so famous -- in South Africa as well as internationally -- that a website called Pavement Bookworm has been created. People can donate books, support a child, or contact the Pavement Bookworm via the website. It also lists resources for people dealing with issues, such drug addiction, child abuse and depression.