KidsCan supporting three Christchurch schools for the first time

KidsCan supporting three Christchurch schools for the first time

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Summer silence will turn to children's chatter when school starts up again next week, but not everyone will be smiling, charity KidsCan says.

Heading back to school can be stressful, particularly for low-income families, KidsCan founder and chief executive Julie Chapman said.

"They've just been through Christmas and holidays, and now they have to think about stationary, shoes, uniforms and other clothing items," she said.

"It certainly places a strain on resources, and if you're earning minimum wage, or are a beneficiary, you still have to keep up with the bills."

Many parents worked hard to perform a "balancing act" to meet all their bills, often forking out half of their income on housing and ever-increasing living costs.

"Unfortunately there are many children that will actually miss out on having the basics they need to go back to school with, which is where we come in."

Support from KidsCan was available in 530 low decile schools around New Zealand, providing food, clothing and basic healthcare to 114,000 children – a third of all children in hardship, according to figures from the Child Poverty Monitor 2015.

Redwood's Northcote School would be one of three schools in Christchurch to receive KidsCan support for the first time this year, a prospect principal Neil Baker described as "wonderful".

The school had already been providing daily lunches for some pupils, and looked forward to the comprehensive support KidsCan would offer, he said.

"Instead of us running around different agencies, they can pull it all together – a one-stop-shop – which will just be absolutely fantastic.

"We've got a lot of kids who need shoes and raincoats, so we hope KidsCan will be able to fulfil a lot of that as well."

The school already helped provide kids with stationary, which made a big difference to their learning and their families budgets, but fundraising efforts during the year often fell short of what was needed, Baker said.

"It's very hard; you put a lot of effort into fundraising events and often get very little out of it for the time you put in."

Identifying pupils who needed help was tough, Baker said, but they worked closely with families and could see signs of where "a little something extra" was needed.

"Very often, [the kids] look tireder than usual . . . so you ask them if they've had breakfast, what they have for lunch. Sometimes it's just a conversation with the child, the teachers develop a close relationship with them, so can observe their body language," Baker said.

"Some children don't say anything because of embarrassment, with some parents even keeping their kids at home to save having to face an embarrassing situation."

Baker hoped the problem would be minimised with KidsCan's support.

KidsCan's In Our Own Backyard programme encouraged Kiwis to support a child in need for $15 a month, with 100 per cent of the donations going towards helping children in need.