Today marks the start of the seventh annual Adopt-A-School campaign during which we are again appealing to readers to consider the plight of children coming to school unfed, improperly dressed and suffering the psychological effects of living in poverty.
We are not talking about a few children. We are talking about thousands. And they are found in every school district in this province, no exceptions.
Last year the Vancouver Sun Children’s Fund which administers AAS distributed $604,000 in emergency funds to 86 schools across the province to help alleviate the most obvious forms of suffering — hunger and lack of proper clothing.
And while much of the money was spent in this way there were grants to help teachers heal some of the psychological damage seen in children whose lives are so blighted by poverty that they are arriving in school at their wit’s end.
So money was spent on supplying and equipping sensory rooms where children can decompress and be soothed into a state where they can function and learn and on other therapeutic programs that teachers tell us they need.
“Since AAS began in 2011 we have sent almost $4 million to teachers and principals struggling to deal with the effects of poverty, in almost all cases, without resources,” said Harold Munro, editor-in-chief of the Vancouver Sun and The Province and chair of The Vancouver Sun Children’s Fund board.
When a parent shows up at a school three weeks into the month in tears with no food in the home and no money to buy any what are they supposed to do? This is not a fanciful scenario it happens regularly in schools all across the province.
“For teachers and principals it must be heartbreaking and this newspaper does not think it right that this burden should be borne by them alone,” said Munro.
“We are all in this together, these are our children and it is immoral to ignore the wants of the poor.”
AAS had provided money for emergency food vouchers, supported programs that distributes food to get impoverished families through the weekend, bought beds to get children off the floor, or to replace those infested with bedbugs, bought lice kits, provided money to a special unit which deals with the most vulnerable students in danger of being sexually exploited or tempted to join gangs for no other reason than not having enough money to buy a meal or a decent winter coat.
It has got to the point that we are seeing not only concern from adults but from students.
The last campaign showed that children in the Gulf Islands were bringing extra food to feed hungry friends who had none while in Langley three teenagers set up their own system of feeding needy families over weekends.
This campaign will carry a story of how high school students in a Vancouver school have been moved to organize their own breakfast program after discovering that a quarter of the school’s population were without food at home at least once during a month.
So the problem is apparent to school districts, principal, teachers and now other students.
This newspaper has never said a critical word about any political party in relation to the AAS campaign except to ask the government of the day to do something.
We are repeating that request to this new government.
In the meantime we are again asking our readers to support this campaign. Your generosity has carried us this far.
You have fed thousands of children, helped hundreds of families.
“We can’t do it without you,” said Munro.
By Gerry Bellett (firstname.lastname@example.org)