Catch up: conversations with life’s only Pavement Bookworm

Last week Thursday The Afrolutionist caught a moment to hang with the Pavement Bookworm on twitter. Philani Dladla, took his time off his busy schedule to answer a few questions on what he is making of his life now, and how he is fulfilling his purpose.

For those that do not know him, Philani is a well rounded human being who went from living a life of drugs and debauchery to creating book clubs for children of different ages. His story stems from the rural villages of Kwa-Zulu Natal province, South Africa – in a home where his single mother raised him and his two brothers after the passing of his abusive father.

One day, his mother’s boss awarded him with a book called the last white parliament by Frederik van Zyl Slabbert. This book was awarded to him with a promise that he would get another one from getting another one. Although he wasn’t an immediate English speaker, he read the book until he could understand that it was about politics. His love for books didn’t whither, however he was led astray by seeking to join with a cool gang that was involved in beers, smoking, partying and bullying. The more involved he got in the gang, the more deteriorated his life became. At the tender age of 16, he was kicked out of school. With no friends and lack of education, his mother garnered more funds for him to obtain a Matric certificate. Although he registered, he lacked discipline to study and obtain his certificate: drinking, using drugs, engaging in debauchery. This was psychologically the lowest point of his life, suicidal thoughts ran through his mind as he compared his life to his peers.

Nelson Mandela Bridge, a place where Philani once called home

Nelson Mandela Bridge, a place where Philani once called home

With only his mother by his side, she moved Philani to Johannesburg in 2008 to live with her friend. She helped him get a job and find his own feet. After 7 months, things were looking up for Philani, so he moved out and lived in his own apartment. Unfortunately, the ghosts of his teenage past haunted him while led him back to heavy drugs and partying. After some time, he lost it all – His friends, his job and ultimately his home. With only a set of books, a blanket and a suitcase full of his clothes, he found a new home under Nelson Mandela Bridge, Johannesburg. However, him laying his head on the ground was exchanged with a bag full of his clothes given to other dwellers.

In complete survival mode, Philani took his pile of books sat by Empire road and gave book reviews in exchange for money. Later, his simple business model expanded to a mobile book library; and that is what his income came from. Although he utilized some to sustain his drug habit, Philani saved more money to purchase more books and grow his business. This caught the eye of a local film maker, Tebogo Malope, who filmed and posted a you tube video of him that went viral. The video worked in Philani’s favour, as now more media and people flocked towards him so his business expanded, and he finally got himself a home again. Today, he has a foundation that hands books to disadvantaged youth and children. Below is a little chat detailing the quality of life he’s living today:

 

@Afrolutionistthank you for sparing your time to talk with us.. please tell us briefly about your foundation

@BooksVSdrugs My foundation the pavement bookworm is made up of young people who believe in giving poor people wings to reach for greatness

@Afrolutionist how many lives have you touched so far?

@BooksVSdrugs I touch lives everyday. I really don’t know how many lives I’ve touched so far, I so it in SA My story is doing it globally

@Afrolutionist looking into your foundation. How many children are engaged with book reading?

@BooksVSdrugs I started my book club with less then 5 kids but today we have more than 55 kids my aim it to have more than 100 kids in 2015

@Afrolutionist: thats amazing! Seeing that it is Christmas time, do you have festivities planned for the children?

Philani's children in the foundation. photo coutresy of www.pavementbookworm.co.za

Philani’s children in the foundation. photo coutresy of www.pavementbookworm.co.za

@BooksVSdrugs I’ve got a lot planed for kids this festive,I only give book gifts to all kids I can give to any age,any race any nationality

@Afrolutionist what inspires you to work with children and youth?

@BooksVSdrugs I believe that kids who read will become wise leaders. I believe in them, I’m investing in future leaders

@Afrolutionist you run a very noble cause… looking at the relation of reading and academics, how does the foundation relate the two?

@BooksVSdrugs My kids and I believe that books are good for every individual’s mental health, no matter who you are or what you do

@Afrolutionist : are there any other organisations and people involved in your book donation drive?

@Afrolutionist I work with many different wise individuals and organizations like @GiftedYLeader @eTeachYP @ReadtoRise @Gullan_Gullan & more

@Afrolutionist as your work Is inspiring. People want to get involved. how does one volunteer or donate to your cause?

@BooksVSdrugs People can kindly visit our web site http://www.pavementbookworm.co.za  or mail to Philanibooks@gmail.com thanks

@Afrolutionist thanks for the time taken to engage with us sir. Have a fantastic day.

@BooksVSdrugs Thanks to you too good people keep on getting Africans addicted to reading