Back on their Feet

Back on their Feet

‘We can change the direction of peoples’ lives by changing the way they see themselves.’

So says Anne Mahlum, an ordinary person who came up with an extraordinary yet so-simple idea as evidenced in this short video clip.

She started the organisation ‘Back on my Feet’ which helps homeless people, through running and then later job and study opportunity creation, to literally and then figuratively get back on their feet. In the much longer, but completely worthwhile TED talk video at the bottom she tells the story of how “I realised i could help them in the way that running has helped me.”

One of the first men who joined the club was a guy called Kenny Herder:

‘I walked in that shelter so depressed. I was just sad. I was down and out, I was drinking heavy at the time, and what that does to you is it fuels it. When ‘Back on my Feet’ came to the shelter that was the day my life changed. As I ran, my mind became healthier, my body became healthier. As these things become healthier. your decision-making becomes healthier…’

Anne goes on to add that Bak on my Feet’ is not about handouts, it’s about hard work.  ‘The sole measure of success is how many people have we helped get employed and housed. I just think the answer is simpler than what we make it.’

And therein lies my point – this idea is so exciting because it is so simple. What would the world look like if more people took stock of their gifts and talents and then took a look at some of the needs around them and saw where they were in alignment. What if we got a whole lot more creative in our solution-seeking.

‘If we can build a community of support around individuals who desperately need that, the chances of them having a more successful and better life than they currently have go through the roof.’

‘Back on my Feet’ has seen over 750 people find employment and thousands of people find purpose and meaning.

These are the kinds of ideas that excite us at Common Change, because that is the kind of creativity and imagination that sparked off what we do. What if groups of friends started pooling a percentage of their money and then helping people they know who are in need using that money.

What about you? Do you know of or are you part of any other ideas that are exciting and creative like these ones? We would love to hear them.

Take a watch of the longer story of Anne Mahlum’s involvement, which was triggered by her father’s addictive behaviour and how it affected her family growing up.



Brett Anderson

Brett "Fish" Anderson from South Africa (the country) is passionate about seeing the church live out what it says it believe in all areas of life. He is married to the beautiful Val (tbV) and hates raiSINs with a different kind of passion.
  • denisematteau

    This is marvelous! The entire approach is elegant in its simplicity and yet astounding in its complexity. To run immediately connects one with one’s own physical limitations and there is no overcoming those limitations except to continue to run, to eliminate the dietary and attitudinal obstacles which are also the same obstacles to so much that a homeless person needs to do for himself or herself. So many other approaches to this problem are in fact methods of enslaving the homeless to perpetual dependency.

    The complexity is in how those first steps of running immediately place the entire problem of the homeless life into the hands of the homeless person. If that person is actually given a “home” in a passive-recipient way, then nothing has changed and in fact the recipient often becomes afraid to make any effort that might cost eligibility for the “gift”, turning it into a kind of addiction to helplessness and leaving the givers confused and maybe even resentful about their failure to change anything.

  • Brett Anderson

    absolutely – “elegant in its simplicity and yet astounding in its complexity” is exactly what it is… and hoping the creativity shown here inspires others who read/watch it to start looking in the mirror and thinking, well what can i do with what i can do?