Walls typically create divisions. But not always. With the addition of a few hooks and a splash of paint, walls across Iran are being reinvented as part of an outdoor charity initiative in which strangers leave goods they no longer want for those who need them.
The message above a row of hooks reads “Wall of Kindness”. It is a place where passersby are invited to “leave what you do not need” or “take it if you need”. Similar messages have turned up throughout the country as Iranians take matters into their own hands to help homeless people.
In Mashhad, where someone installed a few hooks and hangers on a wall, next to the words: “If you don’t need it, leave it. If you need it, take it.” Donations of coats, trousers and other warm clothing started to appear. The man, who wishes to remain anonymous, set up his charity wall on his own property in October, he told Hamshahri: “I saw a picture from Gilan [Province] where a place was designated for people to leave their extra clothes for whoever needed them. I also heard that in Tehran they’ve installed a fridge where people leave food [for the needy].”
It is not clear who started the trend, but in a country where use of social media networks is widespread, it has swiftly caught on. In Tehran, some shops have reportedly put out refrigerators and invited people to leave food they do not want for homeless people to take. At least one bakery has put out a box of bread for those who cannot afford it. “Bread is free for those who can’t pay,” reads a sign on the box.
Civil society in Iran is strong, and a number of non-governmental charities have had a significant impact recently, including the Mahak society, a Tehran-based organisation founded by the philanthropist Saeedeh Ghods that supports children with cancer.
Some charitable organisations have been hampered by sanctions imposed on Iran. One unintended consequence was that imports of life-saving medicine were made difficult as international banks refused to handle any money associated with the country. With sanctions relief, there are rising hopes that such charities will once again be able to work as normal.