"If you don’t need it, leave it; if you need it, take it.” That’s the slogan written on "kindness walls" that have sprung up in cities across Iran.
The concept is simple: do-gooders band together on social media, pick a wall in their city where they put up hooks and hangers, and paint the slogan. Then people who want to help the homeless can leave clothes, shoes, or even books. There’s no oversight: whoever wants or needs these items can then help themselves.
The first kindness wall popped up in Ilam, a small city in the west of Iran, about two months ago. The initiative was widely lauded on Facebook, and people in other cities – including big ones like Tabriz and Kerman - have picked up the idea.
Surprisingly, the idea has yet to reach Tehran, which has the country’s largest homeless population. There are no official statistics on homelessness nationwide. However the World Bank estimates that half a million people in Iran live below the poverty line, calculated at US$1.25 per day.
Young Iranians are increasingly turning to social media to organise campaigns to help the poor and the homeless. A few years ago, youth who wanted to help street children launched a campaign in which volunteers worked alongside the kids – selling flowers, cleaning cars – and gave them the all the money they made. And last year, there was the “jacket challenge”, in which young Iranians invited their online friends to buy jackets for street children.