This is exactly the experience three friends – Jey, Shivaji and Ajith - wanted to give target audiences from underprivileged backgrounds in Chennai with their initiative ‘Thuli’. A shop- forfree store exclusively for orphanages, shelter homes, etc, the project is self-funded by the trio and hopes to tap into the goodwill of residents across the city.
“We had been doing social service in an ad-hoc manner for a while, and were looking for ways to make it permanent. Once this idea came to light, we set up an air-conditioned showroom at Gokulam Arcade in Adyar. Then, began the collection process and we got the word out through WhatsApp. We didn’t expect the response to be this viral, now we are facing a shortage of collection trucks and volunteers,” says Ajith Kumar, one of the founders.
Once the clothes are collected, they segregate them into three divisions – the ‘first quality’ ones are sent to the laundry for treatment after which they are displayed at the store; the ‘second quality’ are sent to slums for everyday use and the ‘third quality’ goes to be used as mops, rags, etc.
“We have created vouchers for Rs 2000 each, which are then distributed to families via NGOs and activists. The clothes in the store are priced such that a family of four can buy two pairs of dresses for each member. Everything is essentially free, but the concept is just to enhance the experience. We also have handbags, toys, accessories, jewellery, etc. Our volunteers also have an interactive session with the visitors teaching them to budget, and impart value system lessons,” adds Ajith.
The public can also contact Thuli, collect vouchers and distribute them to someone in need. “We are launching officially with a few celebrities coming on board, this week. We hope that even school students from urban backgrounds can visit our store sometime, and volunteer to get an idea of how kids from other communities are. We believe it will add value to their character,” he concludes.