Heidemarie Schwermer, a 69-year-old woman from Germany, gave up using money 15 years ago and says she’s been much happier ever since.
22 years ago, Heidemarie Schwermer left her difficult marriage and relocated to the city of Dortmund (in Germany’s Ruhr area) with her two kids. A middle-aged secondary school teacher, she quickly became aware of the large population of homeless people in the town. It shocked her so much she decided to do something about it. Schwermer believed the homeless didn’t need actual money to be accepted back into society, only a chance to empower themselves by making themselves useful. With this decided truth, she opened a Tauschring (swap shop), called “Gib und Nimm” (Give and Take).
Give and Take became a place where anyone could trade stuff and skills for other things and skills they needed, without a single coin or banknote exchanged. Old clothes could be traded in return for kitchen appliances, and car service rendered in exchange for plumbing services, and so on. At first the idea didn’t attract many of Dortmund’s homeless, because, as some of them told her to her face, they didn’t ‘feel an educated middle-class woman could relate to their situation’.