It started off as a homework assignment. Now, one 10-year-old boy’s idea is helping homeless people right across Tasmania.
Oliver Edwards was set a “homework challenge” by his school in Hobart. He had to come up with an idea for something he’d like to do that could be good for the community.
“It could be creating a big artwork or helping old people, all sort of different things,” his mother Cathy explains to Mamamia.
“They check in with the teacher and go off and do them.”
Cathy had been talking to Oliver about homelessness in their city, which has worsened recently by a rental crisis and flooding.
“There’s just been a whole lot of extra suffering in the Hobart community in the last few months,” she says.
Oliver decided on the idea of giving away warm winter coats to people in need.
He and Cathy agreed they would get together as many second-hand coats as they could and leave them on trees in parks. They would stick notes on the coats, saying: “Free on a tree: If you need this, it’s yours.”
The mother and son started hanging coats on trees two weeks ago.
School friends' parents donated some, and Cathy found a few in her own home.
"I looked at my wardrobe and thought, 'Wow, seriously, how many coats do I need?'"
Before long, a local radio station picked up on the story.
There are now donation points set up at different locations around Hobart, and the idea is spreading to other parts of Tasmania.
Oliver and Cathy are being kept busy hanging up all the coats.
"If I’ve got a carload of coats, we only do three or four places together and then, like any kid, he’s wanting to get back to his game of Fortnite or whatever," Cathy says with a laugh.
"He’s just a normal kid, but he’s definitely pretty keen, and he likes to take his mates out to help him as well."
Cathy says she wanted Oliver to have an awareness of community – that there are some people who miss out, and that action can be taken to rebalance that.
"The school is in an affluent suburb, and we live and work in a reasonably good area," she says.
"In Hobart, we’ve got these little pockets of homelessness. It’s pretty grim out there, so it’s nice to be able to do a tiny little bit. Even if it’s just a few people knowing that there are people out there who care."
Cathy admits that the whole thing has blown up into something much bigger than she expected. Oliver is even making TV appearances.
"It’s really fantastic," she says.
"He’s taking it all in his stride."
For more information and donation points, go to Free On A Tree’s Facebook page.