Schools ask for necessities through KidsCan support

Schools ask for necessities through KidsCan support

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Raincoats, shoes and breakfast are out of reach for the families of some schoolkids.

About 30 schools around New Zealand are on the waiting list for support from charitable trust KidsCan, while 500 others are gratefully receiving the help.

The organisation has now hit the 10-year mark of helping schools by providing some of the basics for children.

Barefoot kids wandering to school in the rain, without a jersey, aren't an uncommon sight around Hamilton Junior High, one of the schools on the KidsCan waiting list.

"When you're hungry, no shoes and you're cold, school is not a great place to be," principal Tanya Thompson said.

The school sometimes buys uniform items for needy students and community groups help it provide breakfast and about 25 lunches a day.

"You just find there's a greater and greater need."

That's backed up by a recently released Child Poverty Monitor report, which said about 305,000 Kiwi kids (or 29 per cent) live with income poverty.

About 14 per cent of those had to do without essentials, such as fresh fruit and vegetables, a warm house and decent clothing.

Hamilton Junior High has been on the waiting list for KidsCan for about a year and says the programme would make a huge difference.

"Families work two jobs and they still can't afford all the bits and pieces," Thompson said.

Helping with the basics in the background means kids are more ready and able to learn.

Hamilton's Forest Lake School was one of the first to get KidsCan support 10 years ago.

It means it can now offer shoes and socks, food, raincoats, tissues, and even a nit-busting service, principal Christine Jessop said.

"I think the variety of assistance that comes through is amazing," she said.

"I think of all the programmes - besides the food - the head lice action has had the most profound benefits for our families, because it's ongoing. We have always battled head lice here and [the Health for Kids Champion] is making a difference."

Without the programme, the school would be leaning more heavily on other community organisations, such as St Vincent de Paul and the Tribal Huks, she said.

But the school also has its own plans in place, such as budgeting for a hardship fund to help even the playing field and top up donated food with supplies from the school gardens.

"I have a philosophy that you need to help yourself," Jessop said.

"So, what can you afford? And we will then support you, so it's not just giving everything for nothing. And that's accepted."

For instance, the school recently bought an electric hair clipper to help manage head lice treatments.

But many families didn't want to ask for help.

Kiwis can help support a child through KidsCan with $15 a month through the In Our Own Backyard programme.

Businesses can also support KidsCan through corporate sponsorship or as a fund-raising partner.

Since starting in 2005, KidsCan has given kids:

* More than 13 million items of food
* 200,000 raincoats
* 89,000 pairs of shoes
* 227,000 health and hygiene items