Monday, July 17, 2023

We want to support whānau and make it as much of a level playing field for our children as we can. But it did take us away from teaching.

Life is hard for many of our families at the moment, and not just people that are on benefits, it’s our working families as well. And so it has just been a godsend for our kindergarten to have KidsCan support.  

We applied because kids just didn’t have the basics. As teachers we were applying for grants and buying food and spending weekends finding clothes and shoes for the kids. We want to support whānau and make it as much of a level playing field for our children as we can. But it did take us away from teaching. 

KidsCan has made such a huge difference. We get relieving teachers coming in ever so often and they say, ‘Wow, what settled children they are!’  They get a nice, nutritious morning tea, and a nice hot meal. That even energy is so so obvious. They love lasagne, baked beans on toast, cheese toasties, And they LOVE the carrot sticks. They're always asking for more. When we first started some children would scoff at everything really quickly. Now they know food is there every day. They have food security. 

Before KidsCan we had whānau who we wouldn’t see if they didn’t have food for lunch boxes. Even though we told them we had extra food, they were too whakamā to ask. Now they don’t have to. Those children come regularly now. Parents know that if they’ve got to be a bit lean on something at home, kids are still getting their nutrition with a hot meal at kindergarten.  

Lots of learning opportunities come from the kai, and we find that our children are more open to trying new foods. For example we had tuna salad, and many of our children hadn't tried tuna before. So at mat time I tried it and I talked about the flavours that were bursting in my mouth, the colours that I was eating, the texture on my tongue. And so by the time it comes to lunchtime the children were buzzing about it. We talk about being a ‘Mokopuna Maia’- a brave child - and trying something new. 

Our parents say their children are now less fussy at home. Previously some children wouldn’t have eaten anything like a casserole where meat and vegetables weren’t separated. Now they see what other children have been eating all together, and they’re having stir fries and things they would never have had before.  

Another mum couldn't get her child to eat, and they were seeing a paediatric expert. So we worked at kindergarten helping her to be a Mokopuna Maia. We took it really slowly. And now she eats everything, and she does at home too. It’s incredible.  

We’re in winter here now, and before KidsCan we'd have children come in freezing cold, because they were in little slip on shoes, or their shoes were wet. Now our children have all got beautiful gumboots and shoes that haven't got holes in them and lovely warm socks.  

At the beginning, children would grow out of their shoes and families just wouldn’t say anything. But now people are saying, ‘I've got these shoes here that don't fit my child anymore. Is there anyone else that can wear them? And can I get a new pair of shoes?’ That's really what you want. It’s empowering everybody, I think. 

With Matariki just happening we reflected on the past year and one of the things that shone for us was that we were part of KidsCan. Our children have food security, they have good quality shoes and socks to wear and a beautiful warm jacket that they can come in any weather. We hope if we sing the programme's praises more people will support it so more children can get what we have.  

A huge thank you from the kaiako, mokopuna and whānau from Brockville Kindergarten. The support you give through your funding makes a big difference to our children's wellbeing and learning opportunities.