Picture: SOWETAN
Picture: SOWETAN

Where’s your sense of adventure? Is your idea of a great weekend taking your partner or kids to the movies? Or a trip to the local steakhouse? Or maybe you really push the boundaries, with a visit to a museum or nature reserve.

There is a group of people, however, with real adventures to relate. Like the time they and their vehicles were dragged by hand across a river. Or successfully navigated the notorious Swartberg Pass, in the Western Cape. Or sang along with David Kramer. Or shared lunch with strangers, overlooking remote lakes.

Oh, and while they were at it, they were transforming the lives of thousands of children.

Supporters of Rally to Read, the rural education programme which celebrates its 20th birthday in 2018, travel with us to meet the children and communities they are helping.

They see how their money is spent. And they see the results.

The Rally to Read idea is simple: teach rural children to read and write by reviving remote primary schools that have fallen off provincial education budgets. Starved of funding, they lack most of the facilities urban schools take for granted. Even the most basic materials like books and pencils are in short supply, sometimes absent altogether.

A R35,000 sponsorship pays for two portable classroom libraries and a year of teacher training by SA’s leading education NGO, the Read Educational Trust. Each school is supported for at least three years.

At no extra cost, sponsors are encouraged to join us on rally weekends, when we deliver libraries to schools and meet the children. This is where the adventure comes in. Because many schools are so far off the beaten track, reaching them is not straightforward.

Participants gather early Saturday to load libraries into their vehicles, then travel in convoy to schools, where they interact with children, parents and community members.

The evening is spent at a local hotel, where experiences and stories are swapped over dinner.

On Sunday morning there is the opportunity to explore local places of interest before heading home.

Previous participants have plenty of stories to tell.

Like travelling with Cyril Ramaphosa, a past sponsor. Or struggling to tear themselves away from villagers afraid that their new friends may never return. Or being reduced to tears by an elderly lady explaining how her grandson, after learning to read through Rally to Read, taught her by candlelight in their hut.

There are four rallies in 2018. The Free State rally, hosted by the OneLogix/United Bulk transport group, is on September 8-9 around Reitz, Petrus Steyn and Tweeling. The second, hosted by Shell, is a one-day event on October 20 but is already full. The following weekend, October 27-28, it’s the Western Cape, in the farmlands around Robertson. This rally is hosted by Jonsson Workwear. Finally, on November 3-4, it’s the Eastern Cape, when host Mercedes-Benz SA will take sponsors to schools around Butterworth. This rally was originally scheduled for September.

Rally hosts pay for participants’ rally food and accommodation costs. It says much for Rally to Read’s proven effectiveness that many of SA’s biggest companies are among our long-term supporters. But we also have a lot of small sponsors, including private individuals. One of the drawcards of the programme is that no-one owns it. Big or small, sponsors are drawn by a common purpose to eliminate child illiteracy.

For more information, or to become a sponsor, visit rallytoread.co.za

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