Philani Dladla used to be a drug-addict living on the streets of Johannesburg.

“You don’t have to be rich to save the world,” says the 24 year-old from South Africa, now known worldwide as the “Pavement Bookworm.” He is the protagonist of the inspirational story of a young man who decided to sell his knowledge of books to get himself off the streets.

He discovered his love of reading on his twelfth birthday when the man his mother worked for as a caregiver gave him his first ever birthday present — a book. This same man left Dladla with 500 books when he died, planting in him a seed that would later help him during his most difficult times.


Source: YouTube

A heavy drinker and drug user from a young age, Dladla dropped out of school. His drug addiction soon spiraled out of control, ultimately leaving him on the streets.

But when he saw other beggars receiving money without giving anything in exchange, he decided he wanted to do something different. So instead of simply asking people for change, he decided to give them something worth their while, like a book or a book review.

He says that selling books made him realize how much money he was wasting on drugs. Seeing sick drug addicts around him and his own emaciated self, he finally decided to regain control of his life. With self-motivation and self-help books, he soon made the life-changing decision to stop taking drugs.

Back on his feet again and soon paying rent, he started using his extra income to help underprivileged children by giving them free books. This became the Book Reader’s Club in Johannesburg, which now caters to at-risk youths from ages 12 to 28. With 25-30 regular attendees, this book club essentially serves as a support group for kids in need.


Source: Pavement Bookworm

He also shares book reviews on his website, where he rates books he has read on a scale of R10 (below average) to R80 (as good as it gets), based on how he would price a book if he were to sell it on the street. He does not sell books he has never read.

So what’s in store for him next?

Dladla says his dream is to become a published author and write about his life experiences.

Whatever project he decides to tackle next, we’re sure it will be overflowing with compassion.

By - grape Japan editorial staff.