Free Mo­bile Shop is here to build com­mu­nity barter

The Myanmar Times - Weekend - - Weekend | Human Interest - PHOE WA Photo: Phoe Wa

AS­MALL ta­ble sits empty out on the path near the north-west en­trance to Ma­ha­ban­doola Park. Around the ta­ble are some young peo­ple milling about and chat­ting. They’re dressed in a punk fash­ion but ev­ery­thing else about the meet­ing seems pretty re­laxed. Un­der a warm af­ter­noon sun they be­gin plac­ing what ap­pear to be ran­dom house­hold items onto the ta­ble-top; books, cook­ing wares and elec­tri­cal de­vices. Once all the items are neatly piled the group waits for the clock to strike 3pm, at which time the shop is de­clared open to the pub­lic. The sur­prise, how­ever, is that no one is go­ing to pay for the items, just barter some­thing they have brought with them.

In less than ten min­utes, all of the day’s items have been traded out to thank­ful gath­er­ers. The idea be­hind the shop is sim­ple; there are plenty enough peo­ple in Yan­gon who strug­gle to af­ford the items they need and can’t al­ways get ac­cess to sim­ple lux­u­ri­ous, and there are peo­ple who have some­thing to trade but no one to trade it with. Free Mo­bile Shop is here to bridge the gap. Ko Kyaw Kyaw, a fiery red haired punk, is the brain be­hind the store and it thrills him to see peo­ple en­joy­ing a shared sense of com­mu­nity.

“It was amaz­ing! It only took seven min­utes to get rid of ev­ery­thing,” Ko Kyaw Kyaw says, con­grat­u­lat­ing his team on their success. It’s the first time Free Mo­bile Shop has put out wares, but ev­ery­thing went ex­actly to plan. As a so­cial en­ter­prise move­ment with a com­mu­nity-ori­ented heart, Free Mo­bile Shop op­er­ates at 0 profit. Ev­ery­one who comes to help is vol­un­teer­ing, and the items they are trad­ing might not be brand new, but hold a lot of value for the peo­ple who come with what they can gather.

“In ev­ery house, in ev­ery fam­ily, there will be at least some items that could be traded. It’s bet­ter not to keep things we have no use for, we should find the peo­ple who want to barter and trade up. It’s about com­pas­sion and shar­ing,” Ko Kyaw Kyaw ex­plained.

The team mem­bers, nine of them, have back­grounds in chil­dren’s de­vel­op­ment and phi­lan­thropy that they’re bring­ing to the pro­ject. So far it’s only been an ex­per­i­ment, but there is ex­pe­ri­ence in the team which they hope will lead them some­where where they can af­fect the wider com­mu­nity. Com­mon items the team puts up for barter in­clude cloth­ing irons, men and woman’s cloth­ing, power banks, used books, sport­ing goods and kitchen wares. Clothes, it emerged, were the hot item.

The team ex­plained that needy peo­ple who came did not ac­tu­ally pos­sess any­thing to barter. The team al­lowed those peo­ple to leave with a sin­gle low value item, but re­quested peo­ple to try to bring some­thing to trade to keep the mar­ket­place run­ning smoothly.

The barter sys­tem is novel and did at­tract some odd looks from peo­ple in the park. One per­son tak­ing part in the trad­ing at the ta­ble said, “They tell me it’s about trad­ing, but no one is mak­ing any money. It seems strange”. The team was also told by peo­ple that their model will not be sus­tain­able. The idea of a bar­ter­ing mar­ket might seems odd at first, the team rea­sons, but there were def­i­nitely peo­ple who came away from the event pleased with what they had man­aged to trade. With time and fa­mil­iar­ity, it might grow to be big­ger.

The Free Mo­bile Shop team in­tend to open shop twice a month from now on around Yan­gon, us­ing Facebook to get the mes­sage out about dates and times. If they find success in Yan­gon, the team in­tends to go na­tional, set­ting up trad­ing ta­bles in dif­fer­ent states and re­gions around Myan­mar.

“We hope the team can re­duce the sense of greed and com­mod­i­fi­ca­tion in society. The whole pro­ject is about giv­ing op­por­tu­nity and ac­cess to more vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple,” Ko Kyaw Kyaw said.

Ko Kyaw Kyaw at the Free Mo­bile Shop on Ma­ha­ban­doola Park, Yan­gon on Novem­ber 15, 2018.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Myanmar

© PressReader. All rights reserved.