July 2024

Philani Dladla is a 24-year-old man who used to live in the streets of Johannesburg, South Africa. Unlike most homeless people you will come across in the streets, Dladla did not beg. He chose to make money using one of his talents: reviewing and selling books.

An incredible story

Philani Dladla always loved reading. When he was younger, he inherited 500 books from a family friend who passed away. At some point of his life, he moved from KwaZulu-Natal to Johannesburg to find a job. But after moving to the big city, he started using drugs. In order to remedy to his financial problems, Dladla started selling books. He would only sell books he had read and he offered detailed reviews to his potential customers. Book prices would vary based on how he rated them. This gave him the nickname of Pavement Bookworm.

“I left my job and couldn’t afford rent anymore – I lost everything. While living on the streets I noticed how many beggars there were getting money for nothing on street corners. I thought I could be different and actually give people something worthwhile – like a book or a book review – in exchange for money” he said.

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Cleaning up his act

Philani managed to fight his drug addiction by reading many self-help books. He praises self-help books for challenging him to improve his life.

“With some self-motivation and a lot of self-help books, I made the decision to stop taking drugs. But while I was helping myself I also wanted to help the other people I had been living on the streets with. So I started using the money I got from selling books to buy everyone soup and bread every day instead of spending that money on drugs. Seeing their smiles motivated me to keep using the little I had to spread happiness. From that point on, I knew I never wanted to go back to being a drug addict.” he said in a Tedx speech.

Today, he gives back to the community by helping underprivileged children. He set up a book club where kids can hang out after school. To date, the book club has 50 children enrolled.

“I want to be able to help young kids reach tertiary education without having to worry about finding the money. Too many kids lose their way after high school — many of them turn to drugs, alcohol and crime. I want to change that.” he said in an interview.

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Watch a news coverage of Dladla in the video below:

SEE ALSO: An Unemployed Man Followed His Dream And Built A Helicopter With Recycled Material.