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Elementary school children set up a hotline to lift their spirits

AmericaWith the help of teachers, a group of students in the state of California set up a toll-free hotline where callers receive messages of encouragement.

Last month, a group of elementary school students in California launched a toll-free hotline that provides inspiration and on-demand advice for those in a bad mood. The small school project became popular, receiving thousands of calls every hour.

You need a smile? Call 707-873-7862. This number will connect you to a hotline called “PepToc”, which has prerecorded messages from a group of students offering advice and encouragement to anyone in need.

PepToc flyer at the youth art exhibition in Healdsburg.  Photo: Jessica Marti

Installation of a PepToc flyer at a youth art exhibition in Healdsburg. Photo: Jessica Martin

You’ll hear a cheery voice list option: “If you’re feeling angry, frustrated, or worried, press one. If you need a word of encouragement and life advice, go for it. press two. If you need a short talk from preschoolers, press three. If you want to hear the children laugh, press four.”

In addition, those who want life advice in Spanish are instructed to press 5. Children’s messages include the following:

“If you’re frustrated, you can go to your bedroom, punch your pillow or cry over it and come out screaming.”

“If you’re worried, grab your wallet and get some ice cream and shoes.”

“If you are angry or frustrated, you can do the best you can do.”

Jessica Martin and Asherah Weiss, two art teachers at West Side Union Elementary School, are behind the program. West Side Union School in Healdsburg, California, has 141 students in grades kindergarten through sixth grade.

“We wanted to do simple projects and get kids to think about what they want to say to the world, helping to lift people’s spirits,” says Weiss. “We’ve been through a lot over the last few years. So we wanted to do something very simple but profound.”

They go to every class in the school and give instructions to the children. Children are encouraged to think about times when they felt sad and will get good advice or find something that helps them on their own.

“All the feedback really comes from the kids and their life experiences and the advice they get,” says Martin.

Initially, students handed out cards and pamphlets announcing the project, named Peptoc, after Martin’s first graders spelled “pep talk”. The project was then spread by word of mouth and then shared on social media and in newsletters.

West Side Union students record inspirational quotes for their PepToc hotline.  Photo: CBS News

West Side Union students record inspirational quotes for their PepToc hotline. Photo: CBS News

Martin signed up for the cheapest hotline provider he could find, thinking the kids would love to hear 100 people calling in a month.

“Then two days later, we’re getting 500 calls per hour and now it’s 9,000 people per hour,” Martin said.

In an interview with The New York TimesMartin said the message could help many people, including those struggling to cope with world events in the past two years.

“I think we are in a sad world. The pandemic, the war in Ukraine … But hearing the pure joy of children is very comforting,” he added.

Teachers hope their students will realize something they carry with them for life: that they can change someone’s day for the better with just a few short words.

The hotline will be updated with new messages in the coming months and is managed by donations.

Dawn (Based on Guardian, People)

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