Almost all rural schools lack educational resources. This is a need identified twelve years ago, when the Rally to Read-initiative was launched to deliver books, teaching aids, science kits, sports equipment, educational toys and other material to rural schools – all of which are taken for granted in urban areas.
This year, Y&R had the privilege to become involved in the initiative as a corporate sponsor and attended the Free State Rally to Read weekend on 3-5 May.
Kingsley Potter (Jozi MD), Jerome Styer (GM), Elmarie Jones and Carine du Preez from shared services represented Y&R during the weekend at Aldam near Ventersburg, organized by Bidvest and the MacCarthy Motor Group. Brandt Pretorius, nicknamed the ‘Grandfather of Rally” realized the plight of almost 2500 disadvantaged schools in 1997, which eventually lead to a partnership with Read Education Trust (whose role is to train, coach and support teachers). The original Rally to Read took place in KZN, but has since been expanded to 10 such projects across the country annually.
The idea behind the weekend was to create opportunity for sponsors to interact with children from the beneficiary schools and to have first-hand experience as to where their donations are going. 4-5 Sponsor companies and their representatives were grouped together and attended two schools on Saturday where they delivered the material to two small farm schools—in the case of the Blue team, Vetrivier Intermediate School and Hanover School. Both schools lack infrastructure and struggles with vandalism since the areas are unfenced.
“I had the expectation to put faces to the project since corporate sponsorships tend to feel like a simple financial transaction,” said Carine du Preez, PR assistant. “It was humbling to see the kids neatly lined up and waiting for us, dressed to the nines in their school uniforms on a Saturday.”
The principal of Vetrivier Intermediate school, MZ Kwalepe, said in his welcome speech that he didn’t know what was more special when the team pulled up in the convoy of 4X4 vehicles—the smile on the children’s faces or those of their parents.
The children at both schools had prepared a reading from the sponsored books from 2012 to show the progress they have made since receiving the Rally to Read library boxes for the first time.
Kingsley Potter summarized his experience during his keynote speech as Blue Team representative at dinner on Saturday evening. “At the first school, the kids were all so eager to help each other to answer questions. The spirit of cooperation is a rural dynamic we have lost in the city spaces- and we must certainly find a way to claw back to that kind of space.”
A big thank you to the team — although not forcibly subjected to Kinglsey’s Jazz, Jerome’s sun-related squinting did ruin many pictures and Carine’s insistence on slips got her the nickname ‘Lukas’. The team also leaned of Elmarie’s diversion for furry animals- ranging from the dassie next to the road to the cats outside the chalet.
We’d also like to extend a BIG thank you to Land Rover, who sponsored our vehicle for the weekend.
Upon departure at Vetrivier, a child came up to Kingsley and summed up the experience with the words “Thank you for not forgetting us.”