Before you leave home for work tomorrow—before you go out for dinner and drinks this Friday—take a long, hard look at your wardrobe. Clear the cobwebs in the corner. Brush aside the tie rack, the dresses in rotation. Reach beyond the chinos in colourful anchor print. Buried in the back is what you’re looking for—the cotton T-shirts acquired from local 10ks, the salmon-coloured shorts a half-size too small, the V-neck that expressed four consecutive weeks of your taste before falling out of fashion, the wave of seersucker surging upon you. Shirts, shoes, and trousers you’ve never worn.
Approximately ten per cent of the clothing and footwear you own you don’t use. That’s on average, of course. Maybe it’s more for you. Or less. In any case, in the depths of your closets and drawers lay shirts and shoes, bottoms and blouses, all gathering dust. Textile4Charity, a charitable project spearheaded by long-time volunteer Marc Fredriksz and his wife Bee Hongsaphap, and supported by the Goodwill Group Foundation, seeks to give those often forgotten objects new purpose.
Textile4Charity sets up collection containers at key locations around Bangkok, making clothing donations simple: lift the lid and drop your goods into the box. The volunteers gather your old clothes and shoes and then sort and deliver them to their beneficiaries, the Thai Red Cross Society, the Second Chance Foundation, the Mirror Foundation, and SOS Children’s Village. The clothing that isn’t suitable for everyday wear—“You don’t want to send high heels to a children’s village,” says Fredriksz—are sold at second-hand markets, the profits then donated to the charity.
About a year into being, Textile4Charity already has the look of an enduring project, one that fills a gap in Bangkok’s charitable efforts. “The Thai Red Cross had sent a container-load of their clothing to Nepal after the earthquake,” explains Fredriksz. “A week or two after that, we came to them with 20 bags of clothing, and they told us, ‘Wow! This is really good! We just sent so much of our supplies [to Nepal], and we needed more in case of an emergency here in Thailand.’”
But in a country where clothing drives and donations require frequent Googling and word-of-mouth guidance, gaining a crucial level of familiarity with residents has proven to be a surprising challenge.
“If there’s a collection container close to where you live, you know where to put your clothing,” says Fredriksz, who was inspired to start the project while working on a “Dress4Success” campaign in late 2014 that sought to procure decent attire that the Goodwill Group’s students could wear to work or interviews. “It’s difficult to find places for the containers. We have eight now, mostly at international schools and universities, but we really want to double that number soon.”
The actual creation and delivery of the containers—a specially designed, clearly marked, and waterproof steel box—was a problem solved long ago, and finding volunteers has never been an issue. “The students from Goodwill Group love to help with the sorting. The moment we ask for volunteers, they always stand up. Those women are really motivated,” Fredriksz declares, attesting to the success of the Goodwill Group’s efforts, who only demand commitment from students (the classes for at-risk women are free, but those who fail to regularly attend them face expulsion from the programme; in other words, the students have the power to influence their own well-being).
A pillar of Textile4Charity is that no act of kindness, however small, is ever wasted. To the thousands who lack the funds to purchase clothing and shoes, your old, rarely worn, or never worn goods make a difference. All it takes to lend your support is a look through the closet and the drop of a bag.
Textile4Charity has so far collected thousands of kilograms of wearable goods—and that’s just the start. Collection containers are currently found at Goodwill Group Foundation, Wells International School, Regent’s School, New International School of Thailand (NIST), International School of Bangkok (ISB), Saint John’s University, Dhurakij Pundit University (DPU), Embassy Place Apartments, KV Mansion, and the head office of Toyota. To suggest a location where a container can be place, or to simply get involved at a deeper level, call 09 2447 4414, e-mail [email protected], or visit hhtp://textile4charity.org.