Hampstead man helps 8,000 children learn to read in South Africa

A Hampstead man who has helped more than 8,000 children in South Africa to read has now set his sights on rolling out his trailblazing programme across the country.

On the back of his success, Alex Moss’s charity help2read has been nominated by the South African Chamber of Commerce as its charity of the year.

However, when the scheme launched in 2005 with a handful of volunteers, Mr Moss, 75, would never have imagined its success.

Today it has recruited close to 700 helpers working with children at more than 110 schools in Cape Town and Johannesburg.

In the coming weeks the retired chartered surveyor is hoping the department for education in South Africa will agree to take the project to a further 800 schools.

Mr Moss, who lives in Pilgrim’s Lane, said: “I don’t know about world domination, but if I can help or raise the money for it then why not?

“There are too many children missing out on something like this to ever feel like we are doing enough.

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“It’s not just about reading, it’s also about lifting their self-esteem. Before they thought something was wrong with them because they couldn’t read.

“Normally these children don’t have a literate adult in their lives because their parents have died or something else has happened. It’s all the adversity you get here in England then multiply it by 10,000.”

When Mr Moss wound down some of his business interests a few years ago, he threw his energy into teaching reading at Holy Trinity Primary in Swiss Cottage.

A regular visitor to South Africa, the political upheaval in the wake of the fall of the apartheid regime caught Mr Moss’s imagination.

After a chance meeting with a confidant of Nelson Mandela, he was taken to a township on the outskirts of Cape Town where he witnessed the difficulties facing the new generation.

“My feeling was that anything one could do for South Africa, one should,” said Mr Moss.

“Nelson Mandela’s message was something I felt I wanted to support and it needed all the help it could get because there were plenty of enemies to the Rainbow Nation inside and outside the country at the time.”