Healdsburg, California (CNN) Two years into a pandemic with a war in Ukraine and gun violence in schools, churches and synagogues, students at a tiny rural California elementary school are offering free pep talks for everyone.
The inspiring messages, a series of bilingual recordings accessed by phone, went live February 26.
Dubbed the “Peptoc Hotline,” the public art project from students at West Side Elementary School in Healdsburg, California, is designed to offer positive and encouraging mantras to help everyone through this trying time.
The number to call:
The effort was the brainchild of Jessica Martin, a local artist who doubles as the art teacher for the small school. Martin expected the effort to inspire some smiles and maybe lift a few hundred spirits in Healdsburg and the surrounding community. In less than a week, the project has gone viral, receiving between 300 and 500 calls an hour, and up to as many as 5,000 calls a day, Martin said.
“The adults among us have been holding everything up for so long, it’s amazing to see what comfort children can bring,” she said. “I was moved by the incredible collection of advice and encouragement they gleaned, and how easily and distinctly they were able to communicate it.”
In a series of messages for those feeling “mad, frustrated or nervous,” one child says, “If you’re frustrated, you can always go to your bedroom and punch a pillow or cry on it,” while another declares, “If you’re nervous, go get your wallet and spend it on ice cream and shoes.”
Following a prompt for callers who seek “words of encouragement and life advice,” one child offers: “If you’re feeling up high and unbalanced, think of groundhogs.”
There are instructions and insights in Spanish, with translations of top-level prompts by a second-grade girl. Another option leads to a five-second loop of nothing but children’s laughter.
Perhaps the most uplifting option is for those callers seeking a “pep talk from kindergartners.” On this recording, a large group of crackly, high-pitched voices cheers in unison: “You can do it!” and “Keep trying, don’t give up!”
Martin recorded the messages and laughter in her art enrichment classes two weeks ago.
The hotline presents an opportunity for the community to enjoy the innocence and positivity of their youngest members, according to Rima Meechan, West Side’s principal.
Meechan noted that in 27 years as an educator, the “Peptoc Hotline” was the most moving and joyful project her students had ever created. She said she was proud of them and impressed by their compassion and love for each other and the world at large.
“When I called the hotline, I smiled, laughed out loud, and teared up,” she wrote in an email.