How a guy known as 'Pavement Bookworm' sold his knowledge to turn his life around

When Philani Dladla found himself homeless on the streets of Johannesburg, he wanted to do more than just ask strangers for money to get back on his feet.

He wanted to try something different.


Image via CCTV Africa.

Dladla decided to see if he could sell his knowledge instead.

"I thought I could be different and actually give people something worthwhile — like a book or book review — in exchange for money," he writes on his website.

He knew he had plenty of them to give. He'd loved reading since he was young, and was once left with almost 500 books when a family friend passed away. In a bind and on the streets years later, he went for it.

Image via CCTV Africa.

Dladla began selling books and book reviews to the people he encountered day to day. He soon became known as "The Pavement Bookworm" around the streets of Johannesburg. Today, he's considered a worldwide inspiration.

Selling book reviews turned out to be more than a unique approach. It helped Dladla lift himself out of poverty and drug addiction.

"While selling books I realised how much money I was wasting on getting my next fix," he said. "With some self-motivation and a lot of self-help books, I made the decision to stop taking drugs."

That's some serious motivation. Bravo!

Image via Tebogo Malope.

He was able to get back on his feet, and now he's making sure that others stay on theirs — especially underprivileged kids.

"I started using the extra income from selling books to give free books to underprivileged children," he said. "In doing that, I started the Book Reader's Club for the kids in Joubert Park."

He formed his own book club, you guys! The Pavement Bookworm is on a roll.

"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."

By the sound of it, he is helping to change that. The next chapter of his life is off to a very positive start.

The Pavement Bookworm sure knows a lot of stories, but I think the most inspiring one of all is his own.

Strangers gave him a chance, and he delivered and saved himself. It shows the power of reading, the power of learning, and the power of believing in yourself and in others.

Hear more about it and share the happy vibes in this great CCTV Africa feature:

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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