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Improving the lives of homeless one art piece at a time

FERNDALE – The Green Bag Project has been changing the lives of the homeless and marginalised for the last three years.

What is The Green Bag Project and why is its work so valuable for all our communities?

Recently this project hosted its first annual art exhibition in collaboration with beneficiaries of the 3 Kotze Overnight Shelter.

Portraits hang on the wall. Photo: Supplied

The project primarily runs art-based workshops which act as an art therapy programme for the homeless. Alongside that, they run activism workshops, which are intended to engage participants in creative problem-solving and community-building through relevant mental health-related discussions.

Men paint on small canvas. Photo: Supplied

To find out more about this project, a non-profit organisation that comes to the aid of those most in need in our community, the paper spoke to its founder, Boledi Tladi, a counselling psychologist and lecturer at Wits University, as she shared its importance.

Tladi explained it started about three years ago, and was supported of a mental consultancy called Re Basadi Mental Health Associates. In her honours thesis, she did research on the ways motor vehicle drivers and beggars interact at a traffic light and the start of the project was most likely sparked by this. “I started the actual project, about two years later, on the inspiration to do an act of kindness for a fellow person experiencing homelessness, who I would always see around Wits Art Museum,” she said.

Art supplies lay ready on the table. Photo: Supplied

It would be in conversations with this homeless man that it became clear to her that many like him would benefit from toiletry-filled dignity bags (green bags), which have now become the cornerstone of the project. “As we spent more time in the community, learning about the everyday challenges of living homeless, one thing that was clear was the desperate need for access to health and mental healthcare programmes that were accessible to them, and this led to the implementation of our art-based workshops programme,” she said.

Guests look at the art pieces created. Photo: Supplied

The project also garners support from students studying their Masters in Community Psychology. They work with Tladi on the project as a way of gaining experience in doing community care work. The Ferndale resident is a counselling psychologist as well as a psychology lecturer at Wits University who dabbles in a bit in social entrepreneurship.

People the project directly benefits are those experiencing homelessness and marginalisation. Tladi believes the mark of a society’s character is rooted in how we care for the most marginalized and disenfranchised among us. “It’s important to me to know I live in a society that doesn’t turn a blind eye to those who need our help, to live in a community where people act on their care for others.”

Boledi Tladi is the founder of The Green Bag Project. Photo: Supplied

For her, the work she has done through the project has aligned her with a sense of purpose that brings together all her talents, interests and skills. For those the project has assisted, it has helped them gain a more positive feeling to life and given them a better understanding of the mental health/illness they experience.

Details: The Green Bag Project thegreenbagproject2021@gmail.com

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