Press ‘2’ for joy: New hotline offers pep talks from children

A school project at a California elementary school is offering hope and happiness to anyone with a phone.

Peptoc, a free hotline created by the students at West Side Elementary in Healdsburg, California, offers words of encouragement and pep talks recorded by children, NPR reported.

>> Read more trending news

Calling 707-998-8410 triggers an automated menu offering options: “If you are feeling mad, frustrated or nervous, press 1. If you need words of encouragement or life advice, press 2. If you need a pep talk from kindergartners, press 3.”

Choosing an option then gives the listener a recorded message from a child, including messages like, “Be grateful for yourself,” “If you are nervous, go get your wallet and spend it on ice cream and shoes,” or “Try it again,” The Press Democrat reported.

The hotline went live on Feb. 26, and its inception is credited to Jessica Martin, who works as an art teacher at the school, CNN reported. “The adults among us have been holding everything up for so long, it’s amazing to see what comfort children can bring,” Martin told CNN. “I was moved by the incredible collection of advice and encouragement they gleaned, and how easily and distinctly they were able to communicate it.”

Martin told CNN since the phone line opened, they have received between 300 and 500 calls an hour, totaling as many as 5,000 calls daily. In just two days, calls were up to 700 per hour, KPCC reported.

People far and wide have called the number, finding inspiration and hope in the messages. Amy McWilliams, who is battling cancer, told CNN she called several times. “It’s joy straight from the literal mouths of babes. We adults forget that spreading kindness and positive thinking can really be that simple.”

The project actually began with paper flyers, with each student making a flyer with a message of encouragement, The Press Democrat reported. Artist Asherah Weiss worked with the students and Martin to create the project, telling The Press Democrat they simply prompted the children by asking them, “What would you want to hear from someone when you are feeling down?”

Martin told The Press Democrat she was inspired to turn the flyers into a hotline remembering the “Callin’ Oates” hotline, and asked the children who would want to participate. Approximately 80 kids said yes, and she recorded them saying the messages with her phone.

To help support the hotline and its operating cost, you can donate here at the school’s website. Martin told NPR that any money left over will go toward enrichment programs at the school.