Tuesday, August 8, 2023

‘’The intensity of the need has changed in the last couple of years with incomes only covering the essentials’’.

Shirley Maihi has been principal of Auckland's Finlayson Park Primary School for as long as KidsCan has existed. To mark KidsCan's 18th birthday, she reflects on what the support has meant for her students. 

"Over 18 years, KidsCan has been a really pivotal part of our whole school. We were one of the first schools on the programme, and it was like a godsend to have someone come in to offer support, because we were spending a lot of school money on food, but also teachers were donating their own money.  

KidsCan meant we were able to start a Breakfast Club, so kids could eat in the morning - because we were waiting until lunchtime to feed our children. How good is it to be able to come to school, have a nice breakfast and then go off to learn? Just great.  

The intensity of the need has changed in the last couple of years.. A lot of our families are more needy than ever. They're trying their darndest, but all their income covers is rent, power, and the food on the table, but not much and not quality. 

So we've got more children than ever that come to our Breakfast Club. I think it has been a real eye-opener for us as staff actually, because it's children that perhaps don't present as being openly needy. But they certainly are needy, when you look at how they're eating and what they're eating in the mornings, and you ask a few questions about ‘What else did you have at home?’ And it’s usually nothing.  

But the thing that’s also changed is that families are openly talking about it. Before they were too whakamā [ashamed]. Now they're so desperate they’re actually reaching out to the school.  That's been good, we've been able to provide them with warm clothes, or shoes, or  head lice treatment or whatever they've come to us for. The continuing advertising we do with our families about the support we get from KidsCan really gives them the okay to say what they need.  

There have been so many things over the years that KidsCan have added on to their support that really it overwhelms us. Shoes and raincoats and head lice treatment, even down to tissues and things like that. We're getting really good quality resources that we could never provide ourselves.  

So while KidsCan’s 18th birthday isn’t something to celebrate, it is a celebratory milestone for the support that's given to our families. We're just so indebted to KidsCan, and we just really think that our families are lucky. We would be so much worse off if we didn't have the ability to just email off and say, ‘We need 10 pairs of shoes in size so,’ or ‘We need X amount of Marmite.’ And then in a couple of days we’ve got that support. It's huge for us. 

So that’s something to celebrate, that an organization can actually support so many students. That our families are getting such great support when they need it."

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