Co-Founder Ray Schöne reading to children

Youth Potential South Africa – YOUPSA – Words Can Change Worlds Literacy Program

Youth Potential South Africa – YOUPSA – is an education non-profit that paves the way to awaken the creativity, potential, and purpose of South African youth. We partner with disadvantaged rural schools and farms in the Gamtoos Valley area, Eastern Cape Province, impacting over 900 disadvantaged children, their communities, school principals and teachers.

South Africa has a literacy crisis with 80% of grade 4 children not able to read for meaning. At the age of 13, 58% are completely illiterate. Imagine not being able to read a medication label, the ATM, the phone, a road sign, a voting ballot. Without being able to read you fall behind academically and struggle to economically contribute to society. The children that we work with are from farm workers’ families and grow up in very poor circumstances with hardly any educational opportunities. They have almost no access to books yet would love to read. When we bring them books and read stories together, they are absolutely over the moon and can’t stop reading!

To improve literacy in the poor villages, an innovative intervention outside of the school context is urgently needed. YOUPSA’s Mobile Village Library and Reading Clubs program gives children the chance to read what they love. It provides a platform outside of school for young people to experience reading, learning, listening, researching and discussing. A Mobile Village Library consists of a strong carrier bag containing 30+ beautiful and exciting books for all ages, plus a lending register. This book bag can be taken from village to village, from home to home. Children can gather together to read and form a Village Reading Club. An important aspect of the club is the focus on reading for enjoyment, allowing children to choose what they love to read.

As Co-Founder of this organization, I, Ray Schöne, am passionate about giving disadvantaged children the opportunity to learn to be creative, to think, solve problems and envision a future. The idea for the Words Can Change Worlds Literacy Program came to me when some of the village children approached me and asked for books to read. A few weeks later I was so touched when they gave me their enthusiastic feedback about the stories they read.

This Pollination Project seed grant will allow YOUPSA to start the Mobile Village Library and Reading Club program, providing the children with the literacy materials and environment where they can access new worlds and grow.