Staff Reporter –
About 1500 children studying in low decile schools from Northland to Nelson were among the beneficiaries in the new school year that began on January 30.
Seventeen schools in this region received food, raincoats, shows and basic health and hygiene items under the ‘KidsCan’ Programme, run by the KidsCan Charitable Trust since 2005.
The items are supplied to children in hardship in 600 low decile schools, accounting for an increase of 100 schools last year, thanks to donor support.
The current KidsCan ‘Food for Kids’ programme assists more than 21,000 children a week, thanks to generous funding from the government, individual donors, Trusts and Foundations, corporate partners and Principal Partner Meridian Energy.
The support of its donors has enabled the charity to distribute 17,422,619 food items, 250,309 raincoats, 114,749 pairs of shoes, 229,558 pairs of socks, and 351,044 health and hygiene products since KidsCan began in 2005.
The ‘KidsCan Nit Buster Programme,’ which treats head lice in 110 schools has performed 65,093 head lice checks and 28,000 treatments in the past two years.
KidsCan Charitable Trust Founder and Chief Executive Julie Chapman said that the Programme is now available in 58% of all decile 1-4 primary, intermediate and high schools, including 75% of all decile 1 schools and 72% of all decile 2 schools.
“The Charity is seeing a constant increase in the need for the support it provides to children living with hardship. Four years ago, the average number of children needing food support from KidsCan in lower decile schools was around 15% but has since risen to almost 25%,” she said.
About 75% of the participants in a KidsCan 2016 Survey said that the most common food issue was children arriving at school without having had breakfast and without any lunch.
The top two issues are nutrition/hunger and head lice infestations, followed by oral hygiene and skin infections.
Figures released by the Office of the Children’s Commissioner in December 2016 indicated that there were still 295,000 (more than 1 in 4) children living in hardship despite recent improvements in the economy.
Of the families living in hardship, 45% of children in income poverty are in households where the main income is paid employment and income poverty has doubled from 14% in 1982 to 28% today.
Approximately 155,000 New Zealand children live in households that go without seven or more things they need (material hardship). This includes going without adequate food, suitable shoes and clothing, sufficient heating and visits to the doctor.
Ms Chapman said, “We all have a responsibility to ensure that our communities and the children in them can thrive and have the chance to grow into contributing members of society. I think most New Zealanders would agree that it is not ok that so many of our children are going hungry and without the basics through no fault of their own.”
Meeting the extra costs incurred at ‘Back to School’ time can be stressful for low income families, and KidsCan Charitable Trust is looking for more caring Kiwis to support a child in need for $15 a month (50 cents a day) through its ‘In Our Own Backyard’ programme. Regular donations of just $15 per month provide a child with food at school, a raincoat, shoes, socks and basic health and hygiene items.
The KidsCan Charitable Trust was co-founded in 2005 in a garage in Greenhithe, Auckland by Julie Chapman.
An evaluation was conducted in 80 low decile schools, following continuous media reports about New Zealand children going without the basics.
It revealed that thousands of children were turning up to school cold, wet and hungry because their parents were struggling to make ends meet. Schools reported that this was having a major impact on children’s learning ability, self-esteem and health.
Children who miss out on the basics get sick more often, do worse at school and when they become adults they are more likely to be unemployed and have children who will also grow up in hardship.
KidsCan was started with a generous $40,000 grant from the Guardian Trust, now trading as ‘Perpetual Guardian.’
Today, KidsCan supports the education of thousands of children in 600 low decile schools throughout New Zealand, providing food, shoes, socks, fleece lined Vodafone Warriors branded raincoats and basic hygiene items.
Its tangible programmes ensure that disadvantaged children can get to and through the schools’ gates in a better position to learn.
Mission Statement: As a reputable New Zealand charity, KidsCan strives to be the conduit for individuals, community, business and Government to cooperate in providing food, clothing and basic health care in schools, to enable all disadvantaged New Zealand children to reach their potential.