We have seen a huge turnaround for our children - from being unable to engage in learning to being able to sit and focus. From being agitated, anxious and sometimes aggressive to being calm and having a sense wellbeing. Their whole demeanour has changed. A lot of this is down to KidsCan.
Our community is largely low socio-economic We see families who are in survival mode, who can’t get past today. It’s difficult for them to get their children to preschool as they can’t afford petrol for the car, they can’t afford a bus. Some live too far away to walk. So we began to fund van transport – we now pick up 90% of our kids and drop them off.
We’d go to their homes and families would say ‘Oh they are still sleeping, they can’t come today.’ After a while we learned this was code for ‘we have no food in the house, we can’t send them without lunch – we are too embarrassed’. Because back then we were a lunchbox centre. So we started making basic lunches so we could tell parents ‘Don’t worry, your kids will be fed.’ We’d give them jam sandwiches, crackers, fruit - it came out of our preschool budget.
But because children had often had no breakfast, they’d arrive hungry and anxious. We encourage our children to explore and learn through their explorations but they were too agitated, flitting from one activity to another, not able to focus. Their interactions with one another were sometimes aggressive. Since KidsCan, that behaviour is changing.
When kids don’t have their basic needs met they can’t engage their frontal cortex, that higher learning part of the brain. The free jackets, shoes and nutritious food from KidsCan have made a huge difference for our children. From coming in cold, hungry and tired now they know they are going to get three meals and they can have as much as they like. And the food is amazing – butter chicken and rice, chop suey, cheese toasties, spaghetti bolognese. Before if families were able to put food in a lunchbox – and often they couldn’t - it was the cheapest they could find, like a $1 bag of Twisties.
Now we have children who are secure. They know they have food coming, they can predict the routine. Their tummies are full and they are not in survival mode any more. Their attention span has increased, they’re engaging their imaginations more, and their interactions with each other are positive.
We feel really good about being able to offer our children nutritious meals. They are empowered to be part of the process; we get them to compost their fruit and veg peelings. We are looking forward to one of the initiatives KidsCan has brought to us – a partnership with Usana, who are going to bring us a tower garden. The garden will have herbs and vegetables so we will be able to teach the children about garden to table: about composting and how to grow our own food.
And the shoes and jackets are so good for their sense of ownership. They come in with their whole chests lifted, they stand taller. One mum told us her kids won’t go to preschool without their jackets now.
I can’t talk enough about how important it is to nurture children in their early years. If we can lay a foundation that sets them up for success, then we can change their whole trajectory. We are hugely blessed with the provision from KidsCan.
Janine - Head Teacher at Ranui Christian Preschool