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As was the experience for many educators during the Covid-19 school lockdown; Pamela Kantor, a teacher from a Johannesburg public school, was extremely concerned that many of her students were having their education stalled. They simply could not access online content.

Always passionate about education as a means to uplift communities, Pam knew she needed to do something.  In a moment of inspiration, she posted a simple request to her friends and family on social media.

“All I’m asking is for you to read a children’s book and record it on a WhatsApp message and send it to me. That way I’ll be able to send it to the principals. Please…it will only take a few minutes and you will be helping the kids so much. It will bring such joy to them knowing people in the different communities are thinking of them.

She received one story, and then another and soon they were flooding in. The initial idea grew wings and grew far beyond a way to help her own students. Pamela was inundated with messages from South Africa and abroad containing stories for her to send on. Fellow teachers, parents, students and even successful children’s authors were all eager to take part. 

This is her story

My name is Pamela Kantor. I am a mother to 3 beautiful children and I’m a very passionate teacher. I believe that in this world we live in, we need to be humble and kind at all times and to try to make a difference wherever we can. I truly believe no action of kindness is ever too small.

 I am very blessed to work at a public school in Johannesburg that has more than 1000 learners. The learners in our school are mostly from the Township of Alex and come from underprivileged backgrounds.

During lockdown I noticed the disparity between the various groups. Especially when it came to the education sector. In South Africa, unfortunately, not all students were able to continue their education via online learning. Many students from disadvantaged homes or those less fortunate did not have the resources to participate in online learning. They were not learning anything at this time. Due to this I felt compelled to help my learners.

I then came up with an idea and posted it on Facebook.  In this plea I simply asked for people to record themselves reading children’s books which I could forward to the parents of the learners. In this way we would ensure the students knew they had not been forgotten. It would help to keep them engaged, learning and using their imaginations.

This quickly grew far beyond my own class, with schools, communities around South Africa asking if they could receive stories as well. Heart-warming responses from the students receiving these stories have validated the need for such a programme.

Read For Hope has become a valuable education initiative. I am hoping that ‘Read For Hope’ continues to grow and with extended initiatives and extended reach.

I am so excited to see the heights that collaborative education can reach not just on our unique local stage but on the international stage as well. I will continue to strive to make a difference in the lives of learners that currently still do not have access to online learning. As a South African the idea of an inclusive society and culture is one that I hold dear. I would like my initiative to embrace this South African ethos.

If you have time, please WhatsApp a story  – and tell us a bit about yourself , as a family, a school class or a student and what reading these stories has meant to you. As a community initiative, I would love to build relationships between all the people involved. Read more on www.facebook.com/ReadforhopeSA.

On the other side, I have now started a new initiative where I have asked people to donate their gently worn second hand bras.  I have noticed that covid has also unfortunately taken away this basic need as parents would rather put food on the table than buy their children bras, which is totally understandable.

Covid has taken so much away from the less fortunate communities. It breaks my heart So I would like to try give a girl child some type of dignity and supply her with bras.

Pamela Kantor is the founder and creator of ‘Read or Hope’ and a Network Members of Jewish Social Justice NGO, ‘Mensch’.