Dainfern – They say charity begins at home and one family has chosen to take that literally. Susan Harwood, Founder of Bags of Love, has always had a passion for helping the community and those in need.
Bags Of Love was created after Harwood was inspired by a friend from Canada who posted Harwood’s idea online. Her idea was to fill up gently worn handbags with hygiene essentials and luxuries and give it out to homeless women.
“I started doing that on a really small scale and I just found it so rewarding and satisfying. We have been supplying places of safety including city based clinics. During Covid we opened up our garage for donations. We ended up receiving tons of food, blankets, clothing and toiletries which were distributed to various locations in Gauteng.”
She gathered volunteers from the community and her daughters and the giving has continued.
The challenges Harwood has identified
There are many reasons why Harwood decided to start Bags of Love. One of the reasons was to try and solve the challenge of keeping girls in school. There are so many challenges girls face and Bags of Love aims to solve them as well as other challenges.
“One of the biggest things is keeping girls in school. We just never seem to be able to supply the huge amount of sanitary pads. We need to try and pick that up and get more sanitary pads. We tried the reusable ones as well as the regular ones and we would like people to help us with the reusable ones. A lot of people cannot afford their own sanitary pads. That is a huge challenge. Also, stationery for children especially in rural schools. A lot of these schools don’t provide them with adequate stationery.”
The other issues are educating people about crimes against women and sustainability. They also provide children with black school shoes as many school kids are wearing the wrong size or old school shoes or none at all. Harwood has been trying to get involved in more sustainable projects to help the community.
The activities that Bags of Love engage in
Bags of Love is involved in various activities including providing safety to the neighbourhood. They are involved in crime relief efforts, providing essential groceries and they also provide stationery for learners.
“We provide groceries to quite a lot of people including a pre-school. We got very involved there. We got a group of ladies in the community who provide them with the nice side of things. Little parties, birthdays, Christmas packs and we are actually packing Christmas gifts for them right now. We also do bags for new mums and rape survivors. We provide food for food kitchens.”
The impact Bags of Love have on the communities
For Harwood, Bags of Love is healing a racial divide and showing people that regardless of race, we are all one. Humanity is all about being together and this is one of the most important things. It also allows people to contribute to helping others which is what is needed.
“It is also allowing other people in your own community to contribute. A lot of people want to do good but they don’t know how. There is also that fell good factor. People feel really great to get involved. Spreading awareness of what is going on. Not only in impoverished communities but in every community … The needs of the impoverished community are never ending. Sometimes it is very very challenging emotionally. When you see people being helped, being fed, getting beautiful clothes and start going out looking for jobs or people who have lost all their belongings getting things they need, that is the best feeling.”
There are many who want to help others but they may feel stuck or lost. The first step is to find out how you can help people and go from there, said Harwood. It is all about your intentions and people see that and you will get the help you need. Doing things with love in your heart is the best way to do things.
The future of Bags of Love for Harwood is all about providing for the community. She loves the intimacy that being a small organisation provides. While she doesn’t want to become a large organisation, she admits Bags of Love could use more funding and donations to help more people. The future for Harwood is not about how big the organisation can get but how many people they can help.