We have seen a huge turnaround for our children - from being unable to engage in learning to being able to sit and focus. From being agitated, anxious and sometimes aggressive to being calm and having a sense wellbeing. Their whole demeanour has changed. A lot of this is down to KidsCan.
Our community is largely low socio-economic We see families who are in survival mode, who can’t get past today. It’s difficult for them to get their children to preschool as they can’t afford petrol for the car, they can’t afford a bus. Some live too far away to walk. So we began to fund van transport – we now pick up 90% of our kids and drop them off.
We’d go to their homes and families would say ‘Oh they are still sleeping, they can’t come today.’ After a while we learned this was code for ‘we have no food in the house, we can’t send them without lunch – we are too embarrassed’. Because back then we were a lunchbox centre. So we started making basic lunches so we could tell parents ‘Don’t worry, your kids will be fed.’ We’d give them jam sandwiches, crackers, fruit - it came out of our preschool budget.
But because children had often had no breakfast, they’d arrive hungry and anxious. We encourage our children to explore and learn through their explorations but they were too agitated, flitting from one activity to another, not able to focus. Their interactions with one another were sometimes aggressive. Since KidsCan, that behaviour is changing.
When kids don’t have their basic needs met they can’t engage their frontal cortex, that higher learning part of the brain. The free jackets, shoes and nutritious food from KidsCan have made a huge difference for our children. From coming in cold, hungry and tired now they know they are going to get three meals and they can have as much as they like. And the food is amazing – butter chicken and rice, chop suey, cheese toasties, spaghetti bolognese. Before if families were able to put food in a lunchbox – and often they couldn’t - it was the cheapest they could find, like a $1 bag of Twisties.
Now we have children who are secure. They know they have food coming, they can predict the routine. Their tummies are full and they are not in survival mode any more. Their attention span has increased, they’re engaging their imaginations more, and their interactions with each other are positive.
We feel really good about being able to offer our children nutritious meals. They are empowered to be part of the process; we get them to compost their fruit and veg peelings. We are looking forward to one of the initiatives KidsCan has brought to us – a partnership with Usana, who are going to bring us a tower garden. The garden will have herbs and vegetables so we will be able to teach the children about garden to table: about composting and how to grow our own food.
And the shoes and jackets are so good for their sense of ownership. They come in with their whole chests lifted, they stand taller. One mum told us her kids won’t go to preschool without their jackets now.
I can’t talk enough about how important it is to nurture children in their early years. If we can lay a foundation that sets them up for success, then we can change their whole trajectory. We are hugely blessed with the provision from KidsCan.
Janine - Head Teacher at Ranui Christian Preschool
It's been so much bigger and better than I ever imagined that it would. It's lovely. I did know there was a need for it, but I didn't have any idea about how much need there was. And I think as interest rates are going to continue to rise it’s only going to get worse.
I love the fact the cooking rooms at school have become a little hub, a safe space that everyone knows that they can go to. In winter the staff and students sit and have hot soup together, interacting in a way that they would never do otherwise, and it’s been so good for building relationships. The prefects come and cook breakfast during our kai time, so they’ve got to know the juniors. And now they’re on study leave, the juniors who are aspiring leaders are saying “Can we come and take their spot for kai time?” They’re real proud to be able to come in and take over that spot, and to make sure that it keeps running, because they think that it's cool.
In class we have teachers who realise kids are not concentrating because they’re hungry and they’ll say. “Go for a quick walk to the food room.” And they’ll stroll on in and help themselves to the nuts and the fruit cups and OSM bars and go back to class. They feel safe enough to ask now, they know there’s no judgement.
I had two girls in my class - one has a tough home life and one lives with 10 people in her house. It was a really cold day, and a teacher came in asking for jackets for some other kids. I asked if they needed one. “They’re really nice. They've got fleece lining, and they're waterproof. They’re cool, they’re not ugly.” They said, “Can we have a look?” They tried them on and they’re like “Oh, my God, these would have cost so much to buy!” And they were so ridiculously excited about them. There was one girl who was sitting there and her jacket was clearly too small for her. She said, “I know it's too small, but no one else in my house will be able to fit it so they won't steal it.” She had purposely chosen a smaller one so it could be just hers.
The attendance team heard from one family that their sons hadn't been attending school because they didn't have any food. And so they then contacted them and told them there was a Breakfast Club at school and we can give them lunch at school too. And those boys then ended up starting to come to school a little bit more regularly, so food wasn’t a barrier for them.
Honestly, the KidsCan support makes such a difference to so many lives and we know that it wouldn't be possible without the support from the donors, so thank you for helping us to show these kids that there are people who are here to help them and who care.
Every month our supporters dig deep so Kiwi kids in need can be nourished, warm, and ready to learn – and ultimately have a fair start. It’s not always easy, we know, to keep giving - and our supporters occasionally wonder ‘what difference do I really make?’
By helping to remove some of the barriers these children face to learning, our supporters are giving them the best chance of a bright future.
Verity’s life could have turned out so differently. As a child, poverty and hunger threatened to take away her hopes of getting the education she deserved. Now in her third year studying politics at Canterbury University, she aims to become a politician so she can ensure no child goes through what she did.
KidsCan gave her “those little things of hope”. “Sometimes the only food I’d get a day would be the stuff from KidsCan. Just someone showing that they care about you, you can’t even imagine the impact that has one kids.”
Verity was able to flourish thanks to her aunt who gave her the stability she craved – and her own determination to seize every opportunity that came her way.
We’re now so proud to call Verity one of our KidsCan ambassadors, speaking out so that other kids can feel seen.
It’s amazing what’s achieved when communities pull together. We now have over 1000 schools and preschools receiving our food, clothing and health programmes – that’s tens of thousands of Kiwi kids getting a fairer start in life. This month we share with you the special impact of our work in those early formative years.
KidsCan launched its ECE programmes in 2018 – and in four years we’ve gone from 25 centres to 134. That’s a total of 5,455 preschoolers across Aotearoa who benefit from our programmes.
In the attached image you can see how our amazing giving community is helping us to fill little tummies, fuel growing brains – and make a smart investment in the future of New Zealand.
We provide ECEs with cosy rain jackets, comfy shoes and socks and delicious Heart Foundation-endorsed kai. Every child on the ECE’s roll receives our help. At the start of each week, Countdown delivers meal ingredients to centres, where staff or volunteers follow the simple recipes we provide. Some of the dishes on the menu at the moment: Ravioli with Veg, Vegetarian Curry, Frittata, Chilli Con Carne, Tuna Pasta Salad and Chicken Stir-Fry.
What our ECE's say
Here’s what one kohanga teacher had to say about the benefits of our programme:
"It is having a massive impact on behaviour... With enough in all the kids’ bellies, things are considerably more peaceful. And we can send home leftovers for tea. We photocopy the recipes, so the parents know what to do and how easy it is. I also love that the cooks can adapt the food we get so it’s infant-appropriate. They puree vegetables and fruit from our trees. And that’s fantastic for young mums to see what you can do, rather than it just coming from pouches and tins.”
We aim to reach a total of 200 ECEs by the end of 2022 and are expanding our ECE clothing programme and offering gumboots to our ECEs from mid-May. Some of our ECE kids have already received them and they look super cute.
Schools are preparing for a tumultuous start to the school year, warning children in poverty will be missing from classrooms as families struggle with both back-to-school costs and the impact of Omicron.
"The impact of Omicron means for many students this will be the toughest start to the year yet," says KidsCan CEO and founder Julie Chapman.
KidsCan aims to ease the burden on children, families and schools by taking care of essentials including breakfast, snacks, hot meals, jackets, shoes and health items. Families are having to make heartbreaking choices, like whether to equip their children with the tools they need for learning or buy enough food. Students are starting school with a sense of shame that they do not have the right uniform or stationery, and they don't want to go.
Teachers are doing all they can to ease the burden, but they can't do it alone. We need help to support schools, so children start the year with the same opportunity to succeed as anyone else.
Staff in nearly 200 schools and early childhood centres supported by KidsCan have shared heart-breaking stories of the choices some families are forced to make at the start of the school year. This year is expected to be the toughest year as the Covid-19 pandemic enters its third year. One principal wrote that Covid-19 has impacted on many of our families' ability to provide adequately for their children.
There has been a marked increase in families needing support in the form of food parcels and food vouchers.
Teachers surveyed say parents are going hungry to pay for uniforms, siblings are sharing a bus pass meaning only one can attend each day. Students are staying home due to the shame of not having the correct supplies.
A teacher reported that one family paid for their uniforms then had no money for power and food.
Schools are particularly concerned the number of students returning this year will drop dramatically, as they have taken jobs to help their families survive. Many said students had spent last year's lockdown in substandard, overcrowded homes without access to a device or the Internet.
The anxiety and stress levels are now taking their toll on perseverance and engagement. Teachers are also shouldering back-to-school costs, so students don't miss the start of the year. Experiencing children not having the tools to learn at the beginning of the year is all too common. "How it affects attendance is not the real question. The real question is, how does it affect mental wellbeing when you are the odd one out without the tools to learn? It is soul-destroying. It makes you want to give up and not go to school."
KidsCan welcomes support to help families with back-to-school costs as Omicron arrives in New Zealand.
Project Reports on GlobalGiving are posted directly to globalgiving.org by Project Leaders as they are completed, generally every 3-4 months. To protect the integrity of these documents, GlobalGiving does not alter them; therefore you may find some language or formatting issues.
If you donate to this project or have donated to this project, you will get an e-mail when this project posts a report. You can also subscribe for reports via e-mail without donating.
We'll only email you new reports and updates about this project.
Support this important cause by creating a personalized fundraising page.Start a Fundraiser