The accidental charity, Ren Fernando co-founder of ReLove
Updated: Oct 30
In a world where social and environmental issues often seem insurmountable, the founders of ReLove, Ren Fernando and Ben Stammer, have embarked on a remarkable journey to make a positive and lasting difference.
Ren Fernando (pictured) joins Purposely Podcast to share her founder story:
This Australian-based registered charity is on a mission to create homes for those in need while addressing the critical problem of environmental waste.
Since 2019, ReLove has been providing essential household goods to individuals in vulnerable situations, such as survivors of domestic violence, homelessness, and people seeking asylum. The charity's mission revolves around empowerment and sustainability, and their approach has proven both innovative and effective.
ReLove's inception was somewhat serendipitous. Ren and Ben had started a free running group called the "Run for Good Project," aiming to combine fitness with social good. The project initially had no connection to what Re Love stands for today. In 2019, they organised a project to raise awareness about homelessness, highlighting the struggles people face when searching for food and shelter. This early project set the stage for what would become Re Love's core mission.
In 2020, during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ren and Ben took a transformative step. They had already formed a close relationship with the Women and Girls Emergency Centre, an organisation assisting women experiencing homelessness and domestic violence. Witnessing the dire circumstances and realising the need for support, the duo sprang into action. The idea of ReLove was born - a unique approach to empowering individuals as they transition into safe housing.
The ReLove Free Store
The heart of ReLove's mission is its "ReLove Free Store," a 2000 square-meter warehouse designed to resemble an authentic shopping experience, with one crucial difference: everything is free. Ren and Ben work directly with clients who are at the point of accessing safe housing. The store provides them with essential household items, helping them make the challenging transition into their new, independent futures. This approach is rooted in the belief that providing tangible support and a helping hand at this critical moment can make a significant difference.
Connecting Social Issues and Environmental Sustainability
ReLove addresses two major issues simultaneously - empowering those in need and reducing environmental waste. The founders observed a significant problem during the pandemic when people began discarding high-quality furniture and household items at an alarming rate. Ren and Ben saw an opportunity to bridge the gap between people with excess goods and those in desperate need.
The warehouse has become a vital element of ReLove's operation. It receives donations of furniture from various sources, including corporate defects and hotels. The volume of quality items that would have otherwise ended up in landfills is staggering. By redistributing these goods to those who need them the most, Re-Love demonstrates a practical example of a circular economy in action. They also focus on supporting First Nations people, emphasising the importance of uplifting the most vulnerable in society.
Challenges and Growth
Re Love's journey hasn't been without its challenges. One of the most significant hurdles is securing funding to pay for the warehouse and expand their services. The organisation's early success was made possible through the support of Built, which provided free warehouse space, enabling Ren and Ben to prove their model. However, as ReLove continues to grow, they face the challenge of funding their operations and future expansions.
While ReLove has relied on friends, family, and volunteers to sustain its operations, their ambition is to secure corporate support and broader financial backing. With a scalable model that can be replicated across Australia, ReLove seeks to raise awareness of their mission and gain support from a wider range of organisations and individuals. They are determined to extend their impact by opening new centres across the country and ultimately transforming the lives of thousands of individuals and families in need.
Ren and Ben's accidental charity has not only provided practical support to people in crisis but also demonstrates that one small idea, fuelled by determination and compassion, can create profound positive change.
As ReLove seeks to expand its reach and make its mark on Australia and potentially beyond, their story serves as an inspiration for those looking to combine purpose with action. In a world where pressing issues persist, the founders of ReLove show that, together, we can create homes, reduce waste, and make a significant impact on our society and our planet.