Newly established ‘clothing banks’ have overwhelming givers but reluctant takersEstablished by a Facebook group, called 100’s group, these banks are established in different parts of the Valley—and the country—to help those in need.
Along the banks of the Bagmati river in Sankhamul is a small tin-roofed structure that appears to be a large free-for-all closet. An assortment of clothes—shirts, jackets, trousers—for both men and women are displayed on hangers. On the roof of the structure is a yellow sign that reads, "If you need clothes, take them. If you don't need clothes, leave some."
Many pedestrians pass by the open closet, but there are two particular women who stop, stare closely at the sign, peruse the clothes and then say, “Who’s going to wear second-hand clothes?” They leave summarily.
Like these women, many others too stop by, but no one takes a single piece of clothing, even though they appear new and washed.
The tin structure is a ‘clothing bank’ established by the Facebook group ‘100’s group’ to help the needy—or anyone who is in need of clothes. The group has over 7,000 followers, and more and more donations are made every day. But when it comes to taking and wearing the clothes, many are hesitant.
A scrap collector, seemingly in his early 40s, looks at the displayed clothes with intrigue. Onlookers tell him that the clothes are for free, but he looks away and leaves. “Even when we tell them that the clothes are for free, they are hesitant to take the clothes,” said 23-year-old Dipesh Shrestha, coordinator of the clothing bank. “I think they don’t believe it when we tell them these clothes are for free. Maybe they expect us to charge them money once they take the clothes.”
The first clothing bank in the country started in Anamnagar, which was established by the group on July 23. After receiving great appreciation on social media and amassing a lot of donated clothes, the group extended its services to Jawalakhel, Samakhushi Chowk and Radhe Radhe, in Bhaktapur. Three places outside the Valley—Chitwan, Rautahat and Butwal—have also started operating such initiatives.
Laxman Dhami, one of the operators of the 100’s group, says every day the group gets hundreds of messages from people who want to donate clothes. “The donations are plenty, but people are reluctant to take clothes from our banks. It could be because of their mindset,” said Dhami. “People go to Ratnapark, Mangalbazaar and New Baneshwor to buy second-hand clothes; here we have kept it for free, yet they hesitate,” he says.
“Middle- and upper-middle-class people do not take clothes from here, as there is a conception that one should not wear second-hand clothes,” said Shrestha.
Bir Bahadur Bista, who owns a tea shop just in front of the clothing bank in Anamnagar and is also the in-charge at the bank, said that most people come to take clothes in the evening, after it gets dark, possibly to avoid being seen. “Sometimes we have people who come in and try to take all the clothes we have. We have to stop them and tell them to take only what’s necessary for them,” said Bista.The 100’s group was initially formed in 2017 by like-minded young people who want to serve society. “Initially, we used to rescue street children and help mentally challenged people through organisations such as Manav Sewa Ashram and Nawa Jeevan Paropakar Samaj. We still do that. We also helped distribute clothes to people affected by the floods in the Tarai,” said Shrestha. He said the concept of clothing bank came to them only after one of the group members saw a similar campaign being run successfully in India. “We discussed the idea and started the initiative,” said Shrestha.