How would you spend R35 000? A deposit on a new car? A smart TV? A couple of days in a luxury game reserve? What about this as an alternative: a weekend away that could change the lives not only of you and your family or colleagues, but also those of hundreds of children?
In September and October last year, hundreds of people joined Rally To Read in delivering hope to South Africa’s forgotten children – those living in far-flung rural areas where education budgets almost never reach. We take plenty for granted in the schools our own children attend: books, stationery, desks, electricity, running water and sanitation. Imagine your fury if there were none of these and your children spent all day, every day, staring out of windows, unable to learn.
But that is the reality for many thousands of children around South Africa. Their schools have nothing. Literally nothing. Teachers, for all their good intentions, can’t teach reading and writing if there are no books or pencils. A lifetime of illiteracy beckons. But it doesn’t have to. Since 1998, Rally To Read has transformed the future for rural children by providing their schools with educational materials and teacher training.
The concept it simple. A R35 000 sponsorship package provides a school with portable classroom libraries, stationery and teacher training. It also provides the donor with the experience of a lifetime.
At no extra cost, sponsors and up to three guests (they may be colleagues or family – children of all ages are welcome) join Rally To Read organisers to deliver their goods in person. They meet the children they are helping, as well as parents and local communities. They have a unique opportunity to understand the day-to-day difficulties faced by these children, and to see how their own generosity can alleviate the situation.
Each school is supported for at least three years, during which trainers from the Read Educational Trust support teachers and monitor schools’ progress. Past studies have shown that a typical 14-year-old rural child has a reading age of seven but that Rally To Read involvement rapidly narrows the gap.
How do weekends work? A traditional rally starts at an unearthly hour on Saturday mornings, to load libraries and other materials on the backs of vehicles. Then, after breakfast, it’s off to schools.
Convoys split up into groups, each of which visits two schools – allowing plenty of time to not only hand over goods but also tour schools and meet children and teachers. Most schools lay on a special welcoming ceremony. After finishing at the schools, groups meet up again at a central point – usually a hotel – where they will all spend the night. That evening, over dinner, teams share their experiences and provide feedback. Sunday morning, there will be time for a local excursion before everyone heads home.
There will be five rallies in 2018. The KwaZulu-Natal rally, sponsored by Shell, is an experimental, one-day concept, beginning and ending on Saturday. Other rallies, in the Free State, the Eastern Cape, Mpumalanga and the Western Cape, are intended to follow traditional patterns.
Three rally dates have been confirmed so far. Transport group OneLogix, which has hosted the Free State rally for early 20 years (originally as United Bulk), will do so again this year on September 8-9. Mercedes-Benz SA, another long-standing Rally To Read supporter, will do the same for the Eastern Cape on September 15-16. The Western Cape rally will take place on October 27-28. Dates have still to be confirmed for Mpumalanga, which will be hosted by talent management and workforce solutions company Adcorp, and for KwaZulu-Natal. If you would like more information contact Flip Wilken on +27 (0)12 460 4448.