An out-of-the-box community outreach initiative, inspired by a Cape Town campaign of a similar name, the 404th Street store was held by a team of NUSTians, in Islamabad, on February 14, 2016, as an effort to provide a free but dignified shopping experience to the residents of the nearby Katchi Abadi at E-11.
The event was organized by Kamil Hamad and Wajiha Ali Khan, two Electrical Engineering students at NUST. For them the whole venture started off by a simple idea for a winter clothes donation drive which eventually merged into a full scale Street store.
To help these two along the road were student volunteers from NUST and Comsats and some collaborators namely Akhuawat Foundation, Green Volunteers and Mount Hira School.
After preparations spanning several months, the 404th Street store was successfully held, coinciding with Valentine’s Day, with the theme of spreading a “different kind of love”.
The clothes donations were collected over a span of two months, resulting in over 2500 clothes, household items and some substantial monetary donations as well.
The donations gathered were then thoroughly scrutinized and discarded in case of damage. After that the items were ironed and nicely packed and ready to be put on stalls to give a true
shopping experience to the underprivileged.
Street store is a concept which originated from Cape Town, South Africa - a pop-up store that aims to provide a dignified shopping experience to the poor and the homeless. Street store Islamabad was the second large scale Street store held in Pakistan. The first was held in Karachi.
The Islamabad event was targeted towards the kachi abaadi near sector E-11. This impoverished area is a temporary home to people who have been displaced from lower Punjab and will soon be moved from here as well. The living conditions there are saddening and so when they were told they would receiving new clothes and utility items, the smiles on their faces was hard to miss.
On the day of the event, enthusiasm was running high in the student-dominated team of volunteers. Around 150 families, that round up to over 500 total people belonging to 4 villages, were invited. By 11 am, families from the first village started pouring in. Families were allotted a person who ushered them through the stalls and helped them pick stuff for their families. Each family was allowed to pick up about the double the figure of their total family members.
In order to keep the kids occupied, the Street store Islamabad team had arranged face-painting and goodie bags. Needless to say, the children formed a quick bond with the team, playing around with them.
There was also a friendly counselling session for the women, conducted by Sufiya Shahid, Shahnaz Ahmed and Asma Akhtar. Before the final wrap, food was distributed among the families.
Organizing a large scale event is always tough, but Street store Islamabad ended perfectly without any glitches. Experiences like these are thoroughly gratifying. If you want to give back to your society and help the underprivileged, get up and register a Street store for your city!