KidsCan CEO Julie Chapman shares with us a selection on stories from her experiences with KidsCan and how the children’s charity is trying to make a difference and help fight poverty in New Zealand communities. Read below to find out what we are doing and how you can help stop poverty by donating to KidsCan.
“How the hell is everybody surviving?” It was a question from a mum from Invercargill as she examined her shrinking budget. For the last fortnight, she’d had $220 to feed their family of seven – including nappies for her twins, and a birthday party for her son. “And we’re not poor,” she said. “But if we can’t make ends meet – how is everyone else?”
The short answer is, they’re not. For families in poverty, the money runs out every week. With no savings and no extra money, every price hike hurts. At KidsCan, we are now helping to feed a record 44,000 children in more than a thousand schools and early childhood centres nationwide. Children whose parents are despairing as rent and bills swallow what they bring in every week.
“Whānau are at breaking point,” one principal told us. She’d discovered her community isn’t just going without food, but water and power too. Some have no petrol to bring their children to school. Staff have noticed a change in their students’ behaviour, with kids ‘not even wanting to try.’ Teachers are exhausted from trying to help.
Schools tell of children whose homes are shipping containers, tents, and cars. Several early childhood centres told us they’re seeing more babies being enrolled, as new mums are forced back to work early. Staff are picking kids up so their parents have petrol for the weekend and washing their clothes as the laundromat becomes a luxury. Teachers are dipping into their own pockets – because how can you let a child go hungry?
We’ve had a spike in schools and early childhood centres asking for help – but it’s harder to reach them. Our monthly donor numbers have dropped for the first time since I started KidsCan in my own garage 17 years ago. Some of our regular supporters are finding the disposable income that they spent helping others has been eroded by the cost-of-living.
So, what can we do? It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the need, so today we’re launching an appeal with a very simple way to help. 15% of Kiwi kids don’t always know where their next meal is coming from – 144,000 children without the fuel they need to learn, and play, and be happy. We’re launching the 15 for 15 appeals, asking people to contribute just $15 to feed the 15%. That money will feed a child in need with a nutritious breakfast and morning tea for a week.
Food doesn’t just quell hunger. It helps a child to unlock their potential. The psychologist Abraham Maslow developed a “hierarchy of needs” pyramid to explain his theory of human motivation. Our most basic need is for physical survival, so first we seek food, water, rest, clothing, and shelter. Without these essentials, the top of the pyramid – where people become the best they can be – is far out of reach. Too many of our families are stuck at the bottom, unable to see a way out. Let’s help them.
Every day, we hear about the difference that food makes to a child in hardship, or how education can help a child in poverty. One early childhood teacher couldn’t hold back the tears as she talked about our programme’s impact in her centre. “It’s priceless to see our kids well fed and know that it’s quality food,” she said. “Every day they look forward to sitting down and having those meals together. It’s so emotional because finally they are getting what all kids deserve.”
It's the little things that can set them up for a big future - and when a child can be all they want to be, we all win.
To donate visit www.15for15.org.nz