IMG_5866Our organisation’s driving force is embodied in the slogan: ‘Reading changes lives’. As individuals we can see the impact reading has had – and continues to have – on our own lives and love hearing reports of these changes from our readers.

At FunDza we spend a lot of time thinking about how to scale our impact – how to reach more people – so that more can be introduced to the love of reading. We’re proud to be reaching more than 85,000 readers on a monthly basis, with the average time spent reading being 15 minutes.

However, while watching the big numbers is important, finding ways of listening to the individuals and hearing their anecdotal stories of impact is vital too. So, every day we keep an eye on the comment section and our WhatsApp readers to glean what our readers are telling us: what content is loved (or not), what questions need answering, or what ideas readers have for improvements.

What makes our hearts sing is when we get unsolicited feedback from readers or writers that speaks to the impact reading in general or a particular story has had on them. Earlier this month we received a heart-warming email from Patrick Mtshikiva, a 19-year-old learner from Machadam Combined School in Mooinooi, North-West.

“A Massive Thank You To Fundza Team. I Now Get Good Marks In English Essays. All The Novels, Poems, Plays And Short Stories, Have Helped Me Improve My Writing Skills. I Will Encourage Other People, Students And Learners To Join Fundza. You Are Offering The Best Books One could Ever Ask For, The Very Same Books That Have Truly Helped Me To Wake Up And Chase My Dreams, The Very Same Books That Have Helped Me To Spot The World In A Positive Way. I Am Really Grateful, Honored To Be Part Of Your Team.”

Shelley Bolle, FunDza’s Stakeholder Relationship officer, tracked Patrick down to find out a little more.

“My teacher told me that if I read more, I’d do better at school,” says Patrick. “I found FunDza on Mxit and started reading. I loved the poems and stories so much, that I found myself reading a story every day. I was very sad when Mxit closed, but now I read FunDza on FreeBasics from Cell C.”

When the Mxit servers closed down last September, we worried terribly about losing the admittedly few in number, but highly dedicated in practice, readers that had remained with us on that platform. We tried our best to get them to convert to reading our stories in other spaces. Many have now switched to reading through the FunDza app on FreeBasics, which is zero-rated by Cell C.

Shelley asked Patrick how reading FunDza stories has helped him in school and he replied: “I feel like I can read properly now. I read more frequently and I can read questions better on tests. My writing has improved too.”

He went on to tell us that his favourite content on FunDza is the poetry, which he finds inspiring and exciting. He has actually just submitted a poem of his own, which is about to get published on!

How thrilling! The cycle continues: young people becoming readers, and then becoming writers who can inspire a new generation of readers and writers. Yes, reading does change lives.