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Take a leaf from Free on a Tree, a movement to keep SA warm

Woman starts initiative to hang winter clothes on trees for people in need to take free of charge

29 July 2021 - 06:00 By gill gifford
A woman has started an initiative to hang winter clothes on trees for people in need to take free of charge. Stock photo.
A woman has started an initiative to hang winter clothes on trees for people in need to take free of charge. Stock photo.
Image: 123rf/Rupert Trischberger

Three weeks ago, Madeleen van den Berg of Germiston was scrolling on Facebook when she was inspired by a photograph of a tree with loads of winter clothes hanging from it.

She contacted a couple of friends with an idea, and they were keen. The “Free On A Tree” initiative has now taken off and spread across SA.

“I did a bit of basic research and saw this is something they do in Turkey every year, where those who have plenty share what they have extra with those in need,” said Van den Berg.

“I couldn’t find anything like this having ever been done in SA. In fact, the only other project similar to this was done by a 10-year-old lightie in Australia.”

Together with her friends, Van den Berg designed a poster and tickets that can be attached to jackets, jerseys and scarves that will, on Saturday, be hung on trees around the country for people in need to take free of charge.

One of the tickets that can be attached to jackets, jerseys and scarves that will, on Saturday, be hung on trees around the country for people in need to take free of charge.
One of the tickets that can be attached to jackets, jerseys and scarves that will, on Saturday, be hung on trees around the country for people in need to take free of charge.
Image: Supplied

“The idea has just taken off. We have been contacted by organisations and teams everywhere. Rotarians, Mes-Aksie, orphanages and many others all want to be part of this. We were contacted by an orphanage who says they have been collecting warm clothes and they will be doing this to teach their children the importance of sharing,” said Van den Berg, explaining how her idea has spread.

The group now has a Facebook page and has developed a network of 80 different sites across the country, where volunteers will be hanging winter clothes on trees for people in need.

Free on a Tree is a community initiative aimed at helping those with excess winter clothing give to those in need, through a sharing project.
Free on a Tree is a community initiative aimed at helping those with excess winter clothing give to those in need, through a sharing project.
Image: Supplied

“Free From A Tree” – or “Baadjies Aan Bome” – is set to happen this Saturday morning when volunteers will all decorate their chosen trees with clean clothing tagged with a simple message: “Here’s something warm, just for you to get through the winter. Take this item if you need it. Free on a tree.”

According to Van den Berg, the idea is for groups to hang their donated items on their trees, take a photograph and then walk away.

“We have no plans to police it. Yes, people have complained that some opportunists will come and take lots of things and go and sell them, but our feeling is that if somebody is going to do that, we really don’t mind as they obviously need money for food.”

Anyone interested in joining the initiative can call Madeleen van den Berg on 082 784 0852 for more information.


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