“I love being on the road. It really holds a special place in my heart, just getting to know people and their communities and hearing all of the passion and aroha that the kaiako [teachers] have for their kids. Just knowing the people behind the scenes that are cheering for the tamariki to do well, and putting all their efforts into making sure they have everything they need to do well, is huge.
This week I’ve been in Northland. It was really cool to visit one of our new partner centres - they’ve got a really special community. I walked into the toddler room and all the tamariki were just sitting quietly enjoying their pumpkin pasta bake, and the centre had bought them drink bottles to encourage drinking water. So they all had their little water bottles and their bowl of kai. That was really cool to see.”
“The cost of living is having a real impact. I spoke with the cook at one Kohanga Reo and she said her main goal is to just make sure that she's feeding the tamariki as much as possible while they're there - because they might not go home to much. They use KidsCan kai and she really loves baking so she tops them up with that. I think that’s the perspective of so many of the kaiako and cooks - they're doing as much as they can, outside of teaching, to make sure that everyone's well being is really looked after. It’s huge.
I met with a principal who said she was so proud of her students and everything they bring to the table, when they have so much going on. She helped one family where the mum was 37 weeks pregnant and they were sleeping on the floor. That stuck with me. You know, you want to surround someone who's pregnant with the most care and the best circumstances, and for her to be in such hard circumstances, it was hard to hear that. The positive side to that is there are so many amazing people doing their very best to get people what they need.
So it’s recognising there’s a lot going on outside of school for many kids. It means school is their safe, consistent space, where they can be warm and fed and just be themselves. So what KidsCan does is really important. They’re so thankful for the support. When I walk into a centre, or school, and they see the KidsCan logo on my t-shirt and just get a smile on their face, that's always really rewarding.
It’s good to see our programmes in action. In schools, KidsCan helps to offer a variety of items, at breakfast clubs and throughout the day. The snack items have a huge impact just filling up pukus, just helping to reengage with learning. They might get the government Ka Ora Ka Ako lunch programme, but if students are coming to school, and haven't had anything to eat, then breakfast and morning tea is super important to get them to start that engagement.
Our early childhood programme is amazing. It is having a massive impact on the health and wellbeing and behaviour of tamariki - and their attendance. For whānau, just knowing that that consistent support is there makes sure that they come back every day. Teachers say when they had to bring in lunch boxes attendance was varied, because on certain days it was harder to get food than others. But with the KidsCan kai being implemented, really the only thing that keeps them away is sickness.
One event that has stuck with me this year was when we were handing out jackets at a school and the head girl did a speech. She said they were really thankful for them, because it wasn't just a jacket. It showed there were people in the community who care about them doing well at school. It wasn’t just about the material thing, but the mana and love behind it. I teared up. I thought it was special. And I’m really glad that sentiment comes across when we give things.