This post is the sixth in a series about my experience while teaching and traveling this summer in South Africa. Here are the links to the previous posts:
Impact of Caring: Post 1 – Faaidah and Mahavia
Impact of Caring: Post 2 – Fiona and Cheryl
Impact of Caring: Post 3 – Kannemeyer Primary School
Impact of Caring: Post 4 – Julika Falconer
Impact of Caring: Post 5 – Desiree
Sometimes the words, “thank you” don’t seem to emphasize the depth of thanks I feel for the actions of others who have helped me. The generosity of Phuti and her husband is a perfect example.
For the past three years, Phuti has been a central force in my Books to Africa Partnership. We met in Barcelona, Spain at the Microsoft Global Forum and struck up a friendship based on a mutual belief that all children deserve the best. When I went to South Africa in 2015, for a week, I visited her school, Pula Madibogo Primary School near Polokwane, in the northern Limpopo Province. Phuti was the principal there and would pick me up each morning and bring me to school where I helped teach lessons or worked with kids on their reading skills. We had been sending her books for over a year and I could see the benefit of our actions.
Kids came to her office to check out books and take them home. Fellow teachers had started a Reading Club and the school was on its way toward emphasizing the importance of reading in children’s daily lives.
Fast forward two years and I visited Phuti again, but this time a few things changed. First, she and her husband were gracious and allowed me to stay in their home while I visited her. Phuti is also now retired from her principal post, but remains steadfast in her commitment to literacy education.
A few weeks ago, she sent letters to neighbors about the Saturday literacy and tech program she was starting. It would be a free weekly two hour commitment for the children. Within days she had more positive replies than she could accept! Children started coming to her home each Saturday morning to have reading lessons and learn how technology could be used as an educational tool. The community reading club was born!
I was fortunate when I came to Phuti’s home because I was able to participate in the grand opening of this community reading project. With books we have been sending her this year and others she gathered, the students have been reading and extending their learning on Saturdays. For the grand opening, she had the students prepare the agenda, make a plan for the activities, invite local parents and participate in the events.
It was a wonderful morning of celebrating literacy with oral reading, poems, songs, speeches and delicious food! We had conversations about reading and books and the importance of education. I loved seeing books that my students had signed in the hands of a new set of readers.
I was truly honored to be able to participate and see the level of commitment Phuti and these families and children have toward reading literacy.
If you would like to read more about my visit with Phuti , her family and my experiences ona donkey cart and eating Mopani worms, please visit my library blog.
I am Julie Hembree, a teacher librarian in the greater Seattle area. I am passionate about providing children in need with quality reading resources. The opinions expressed in this Blog are strictly those of Julie Hembree and its contributors. They do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of any other entity.