Provide the essentials to Kiwi kids in need

by KidsCan Charitable Trust
Provide the essentials to Kiwi kids in need
Provide the essentials to Kiwi kids in need
Provide the essentials to Kiwi kids in need
Provide the essentials to Kiwi kids in need
Provide the essentials to Kiwi kids in need
Provide the essentials to Kiwi kids in need

Project Report | Jan 29, 2024
"A quarter of a sandwich for-tea"

By The Team | KidsCan Charitable Trust


"A quarter of a sandwich for-tea" - Teachers share harrowing stories as students return to school hungry.


I’m reading through pages and pages of heartbreak. Hundreds of stories from teachers at KidsCan’s partner schools, speaking up about what children in hardship are coping with. It shines a light on the opportunities students are being robbed of as more work to support their families. An insight into a world that children just shouldn’t be living in.

Our schools survey is not easy reading - but it's the confronting truth about how thousands of New Zealand children are living.

This is not easy reading - but if you can, don’t look away. The least we can do is know what is happening.

“There are too many heartbreaking stories to tell from our kura, unfortunately,” a teacher has written. “I had one child tell me that they get a 1/4 of a sandwich for tea and look forward to coming to school so they can eat. They said they hate the holidays as that means there is no food.”

“Student in Year 13 now has a scholarship to Uni but will not be going as the household needs her to go to work. She says it is just for the year, but we all know, including her, that this won't be the case. Too many stories and not enough space for the heartache that we see every day, and our students live,” another said.

We asked our schools what children would arrive without in 2024. “There are often students that do not bring anything to school, not even their school bag,” was a typical reply.

We asked if poverty was getting better or worse in their communities. 65% said it was getting worse, and a further 15% said it hadn’t moved. Kids are feeling it.

“Only having instant noodles to eat. No electricity in the home. Having to wear mum’s hand me down bras that don’t fit. No shampoo, soap, toothpaste etc. I could go on!”

“We know for many of our families the only kai the children get is at school. Children have been ‘caught’ trying to take kai home to share with other siblings and parents. Many families have had their power cut off; they can't afford to buy phone credit. Many mornings I run around the town like a "taxi" picking up children to get them to kura.” That’s from the principal.

We asked how the cost of living crisis is affecting students' education - and this is the part that really got our team - because you can see too many kids’ potential being wiped out by the cost of living.

47 schools spoke of students holding down jobs along with schoolwork or leaving school altogether to work. Students are missing school as they’re looking after their siblings while their parents work extra jobs. Their education is being sacrificed - and that matters because it’s their pathway out of poverty.

“Being too tired and falling asleep at school as they have worked all night and then come straight to school.”

“There are a couple of students working as farm hands to help with household income even though they're primary school children.”

Primary school children. Schools reported students bearing a load they shouldn’t have to shoulder, as their parents did their best to survive.

“One example is a boy who was always coming in late, saying he slept in. After a while I rang mum. She confessed that she started work really early and he had to get himself and younger siblings up and ready for school (couldn't afford a pre-school programme).

“We have one family with three children attending. Mum is leaving home at 6 in the morning and not returning until after 8pm. She is holding down two jobs to make ends meet and the older siblings are doing their best to get everyone to school and cook meals.”

Of course, school isn’t just about academics. It’s trips, and camps, and after school sports and activities. Increasingly, that side of school life is closed to kids in poverty.

“A student in my class is great at sport but will never get the opportunity to succeed in it because her solo mother can't afford petrol and sport fees or the time to get to the events.”

“Participation in sports that have a cost has dropped, especially for students with natural talent from low-income families. These students are well aware of the struggles their families face and are making decisions to not even ask for fees.”

If there is anything uplifting in this reading, it’s the length that schools are going to to plug the gaps: picking up children when there is no petrol, fundraising for sports fees, arranging food parcels.

“Any doctors or specialist appointments that children haven't been able to attend over the break, the school will organise to pick up parents and take the children to these appointments,” one said.

This is a lot to be asking of our schools - whose primary role is to teach. It’s no wonder teachers are burning out. That’s where charities like ours come in. I’m heartened by how much we can help. In this survey, we also asked schools about the difference that KidsCan support makes, with many responses like this:

“The impact of being able to provide our tamariki with food when they have little to nothing has been tremendous. Our children feel cared for and know that school will provide when they are low at home. Providing food, clothes, shoes and health products for our tamariki means they are not limited and absent from school due to these issues.”

We have thousands of children in 77 schools and 137 early childhood centres waiting for this crucial support - our biggest waitlist since 2018. But we can't just rely on kind Kiwis and businesses to feed and clothe vulnerable kids. The government must also play its part, so we can do even more together. Just 1.7% of our funding has come from government over the past 6 years and we urgently need more so we can reach the children who are waiting.

I want to end with a comment from one teacher which has stuck with me: “I think you see [poverty] so often it has become the norm, and nothing shocks anymore.”

But we must be shocked. We can’t become numb to how kids in poverty are living, we must imagine the faces of the children behind these stories and try to put ourselves in the shoes of the parents battling to survive every day. Like every parent, they want the best for their kids - but man, they’re up against it. So, let’s do our part in lifting them up.

Thank you to all our donors who make our support possible - in the toughest of times you are making a real difference.

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Organization Information

KidsCan Charitable Trust

Location: Auckland - New Zealand
Project Leader:
Partnerships KidsCan
Auckland , Auckland New Zealand

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