Need a pep talk? What about one from a kindergartener? There’s a hotline for that.
The free hotline “Peptoc Hotline,” is a school project by West Side School located in Healdsburg, California by art teacher Jessica Martin and artist Asherah Weiss.
Martin, who started the art program at the West Side School four years ago, said she was concerned about the stressful circumstances that the kids have endured, including evacuations due to wildfires and the pandemic. Her goal was to bring some joy back into the lives of her students, who range in age from 5 to 12.
“They have also been able to find coping mechanisms and advice for themselves to get through the day in a really positive way,” Martin said. “And we really wanted to share that with the world. We all really need that right now.”
The kids did not really know what a hotline was, so Martin instructed them to say something that has helped them get through a tough situation, or say something that has helped them during a difficult time.
The hotline, which took about a week to complete, went live on Feb.26 and is now receiving more than 8,000 calls per hour, according to Martin.
When callers dial 707-998-8410, they are greeted by Martin’s daughter, 11-year-old Rosely Pochan, who welcomes them with the following menu:
“If you’re feeling mad, frustrated or nervous, press 1. If you need words of encouragement and life advice, press 2. If you need a pep talk from kindergartners, press 3. If you need to hear kids laughing with delight, press 4. For encouragement in Spanish, press 5.”
Hit play on the audio bellow to hear a snippet of the hotline’s advice.
Alongside the hotline, the project also included the creation of posters with motivational phrases that were placed throughout town.
“Joy is a powerful thing,” Martin said.
Martin said she initially hoped the hotline would receive a 100 calls an hour, but within two days the hotline was getting over 500 an hour.
Nico Romo, a 5th grader who participated in the project, said he liked feeling like he could help people, especially with a war going on in Eastern Europe.
“It’s helping them with conquering anxiety and having hope and that there will be good stuff happening more in the world,” he said.
Weiss said the project would have been considered a success if it had just brought positive messages to students and their families.
“So the fact that it’s reached thousands and thousands of people is just, wow, unexpected.” he said.
“It’s pretty extraordinary and testament to how much this world needs this right now,” Martin said.
A total of 141 students participated in the project, whether it was making a poster or participating on the hotline, including 80 who recorded the life-affirming messages.
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The hotline is set up with Telzio. Their basic plan starts at $50, which includes a thousand minutes, and unlimited users. Peptoc quickly ran out of minutes so Martin got in touch with Telzio President Diana Chu, who donated a million minutes.
“What resonated with me was when Jessica described the idea behind it as ‘reinventing’ the phone menu by shifting it from a typically frustrating experience to an uplifting one,” Chu wrote in a statement to USA TODAY. “Seeing the positive impact the kindergarteners have made on people using the Telzio platform is incredibly rewarding.”
However, due to the high volume this donation was only able to sustain them for a few days, according to Chu.
“We can crowdfund this and, and make sure that it stays up. I’d like to just keep it up indefinitely,” Martin said.
“I think people are just looking for ways to feel connected, to feel touched by the interconnection of us as humans,” Weiss said. “I think this hotline does that in a very pure, sweet way.”
TO GoFundMe has been created in order to support the efforts of this project.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism