For most children, going back to school is exciting, but for those going without it can be tough.
Lorraine Taylor, CEO of Variety – the Children’s Charity, says the end of January is an anxious time for many New Zealand families trying to do the best for their kids – and her team is struggling to keep up with the demand for help.
“Most families are looking at an outlay of around $440 per child at the start of the school year, and for many this is an impossible financial burden – they’re unable to afford basics like uniforms and stationery.
“For a child it can mean coming to school in a uniform that doesn’t fit or is incomplete. It can mean going without books and school bags, and not joining activities and trips with their classmates.
She says that teachers tell her that families have such a deep sense of shame that some children are kept at home until Mum and Dad can pay for these things. “These kids miss out on the vital first weeks of school, are isolated from their peers and feel like they don’t belong.”
Variety is asking New Zealanders to help remove the burden of back-to-school costs for a struggling family by sponsoring a child for $45 a month.
“That’s all it takes to give an individual child exactly what they need – it might be clothing, shoes, stationery, camp fees, sports fees and other extra-curricular costs,” says Taylor.
“We have 500 children on our list waiting for help right now, and by the time school starts, that will likely be more. These children are in desperate need of the help a sponsor can provide.”
Rhonda Kelly, Principal of Tāmaki Primary School says that in her experience, every parent wants to ensure their child has everything they need to succeed at school and it can be an anxious time for parents and children who, for whatever reason, are not equipped with the basics they need for that success."It can be a very humbling experience for our families when their child receives Variety assistance - we have had some very emotional moments when mothers have cried when they have been told that their child has Variety sponsorship – it takes away a huge burden,” says Kelly.
Joshua* needs a new uniform that his family can’t afford. He is the eldest of three children in a single-income family that is finding it hard to pay for anything after rent, food and utilities have been covered. His dad is a full-time rest home health care assistant and his mum is a full-time caregiver to him and his siblings. Being the oldest, there are no hand-me-downs.
Annie* is a single mum who gave up her bus driving job to care for her 82-year old father along with her three children, one with cerebral palsy. With school starting in a few weeks, Annie turned to Variety in the hope of finding a sponsor for her children so they can have a uniform, shoes, stationery and school bag.
*Not their real names