A journey of hope to leave a South African legacy... Rally to Read is a joint project involving private sponsors, members of the South African business community and 135 rural schools, organised annually by McCarthy, Bidvest, The READ Educational Trust and the Financial Mail. Since its inception, the Rally to Read has been a fascinating, exciting and inspiring journey. From the very beginning, the wheels of this project have turned through the dedication of organisers, funders and participants with the common vision of bringing hope through literacy. During the weekends of May, convoys of off-road vehicles will again depart from main cities across the country to deliver educational materials to some of the country’s most neglected schools. Once at the schools, Rally participants meet and interact with the learners and teachers who benefit from the deliveries as well as the subsequent professional development which is provided for three years by The READ Educational Trust.

Rally To Read KwaZulu Natal North 2nd school of the day, Ferdinand Primary

Its a short 30 minute drive through Mooi River Valley to our next school of the day Ferdinand Primary. As we pass the tail end of another team we notice Iris waving on the side of the road with her vehicle. She was'nt actually waving but trying to flag somone down as their vehicle had now developed a puncture. We pull over to the side of the road as other members of our team assist her with a tricky tyre change. That sorted we continue on our way... 






You cant help but notice in these areas there seems to be hardly any large settlements and on the surface the area appears sparcly populated...thats untill you get to the schools...









Theres a huge turnout at we reach our next school.....20 teachers, 677 pupils and it looks like they are all here...Its a tremendous welcome as the children flock to greet their sponsors and help unload the vehicles. 




















Once inside the school courtyard we are welcomed by the schools principal and some of the pupils step forward to read poems thanking the Rally for their support. Our team leader Mark then introduces the sponsors.








Thobile from READ gives a random pupil chance to read from one of the new books which he does with great ease. KZN is Thobile's terrortory so she is very familiar with the schools advancements visiting many times over the year to check the Rally's implementations are working as they should be.





As with our previous school theres a range of new sports kit for the pupils here... prior to our visit today Rally staff  consult with teachers as to what size outfits the children need so everything is put to good use.


After the presentation of the sports equipment the crowd is treated to a selection of reading and songs performed by the children...















The school choir also sing the national anthem being led by a very confident and capable conductor. 





What followed next has to be for me the poinent moments of  all this years Rallys. A single incident that stands as a testamony to the persiverence and efforts made by pupils and teachers alike. A small boy took to the stage to perform a short story. ..." Hats for sale, hats for sale" the young boy said as he paced up and down the stage to the crowds amusement... 


 "Hats for sale, hats for ....... the boy stopped mid sentence and his eyes started to fill with tears...as did mine and most of the sponsors watching.. the young lad had heard the laughter and took it as people laughing at him rather than with him... 


The teacher took the boy to one side comforting him and explained the situation.... giving him the confidence to try once more... again he tried but on hearing the laughter burst out crying... once again the teacher interviened and talked to the lad giving him the support needed to continue... she also explained to the pupils and parents watching that they needed to be more understanding and try not to laugh so much.... at this point I noticed a lady in the crowd looking concererned, obviously the childs parent or guardian ....



So the boy wiped away his tears and again for the 3rd time took to the stage to complete his story... after a long day selling hats he slumped to the floor and pretended to be asleep... a troop of monkeys came while he slept and stole all his hats leaving his box empty...upon waking he notices the monkeys wearing his hats and demands with a lot of shouting and throwing of sticks that they give him them back... which they immediately did! 




There was a massive round of applause from the crowd, the young lad had finally gained his confidence back and completed his story in-front of a very large crowd. It was a truely inspiring and emotional performance and I'm sure for many, an everlasting memory. It was also a lovely gesture by one of our sponsors to give his own hat and a 100 rand note to the boy in question. 

The schools teachers then take to the stage performing a traditional dance in their make shift costumes, towels crafted into skirts held together with safety pins...improvisation is the name of the game in these remote areas of KZN






Our team leader Mark then presents the Rally's certicate and pledge of support for the upcoming year. Its also the Rallys turn to recieve some credit as the staff and children present their messages of thanks in the form of a hand embroidered mat and a picture of the African flag which had lovingly been created by the pupils.















The last part of our program for the day is the tour of the classrooms. Of the 12 schools visited by the rally in the KwaZulu Natal North region 5 have been given new grade R classrooms. These new facilities have motivated the teachers to look after them and this has had a very posative impact on their teaching.






Finally before we leave and head back to the Drakensburg Sun Resort for the evening the sponsors help distribute the "Fizzers" a popular African chewy sweet. Within a few minutes everybodys chewing away as we say our goodbyes... 







We have about an hours drive back to our base for the evening through some incredibly beautiful landscapes leading to the northern side of the Drakensburg Mountain Range...











This years Rally To Read  has taken place for the 15th consecutive year. Since 1998 the program has invested nearly 49 million Rand in improving literacy levels of young children in South Africa's most remote rural schools and continues to reach more children and teachers each year. 

The remarkable thing about the rally is all team leaders, co- ordinators, volunteer their time ensuring all sponsorship goes direct to new materials and teacher training rather than organisational "running costs" 

Its been an absolute privalidge for me to witness and photograph each one of this years rallies. Its taken me to some of the most visually and culturally stunning parts of this very beautiful country and again like last year I cannot stress enough to future sponsors thinking of joining the Rally, whether your from Africa or other parts of the world, this has to be the best and only way of seeing this incredible land. 

I initially started this blog as a platform for the sponsors to see their pictures, but now with the advent of interest from the European Space Agency and the upcoming installation of KZN satellite communication systems including 2 desk top PC's and 6 Tablet computers in each of 12 schools it seems to be a future reality that the children might actually get to see their pictures too.

Many thanks to Pamela Richardson, the Rally founder and Iris Francis the National Rally Organiser for inviting me back, their tireless work and effort in co-ordinating the rally each year is a true inspiration, its been an incredible journey leaving me with so many precious memories. Thank you also to the many sponsors involved, You have all helped to create each set of photographs, helping raise worldwide awareness of this wonderful cause .