Trevor Street asks a simple question: “Have you ever been to a country that doesn’t have an education system?” Many people would likely answer no.
Street, who runs the Partners Marketing Group in Port Coquitlam, has seen what such a place looks like.
Two tours as an infantryman in Afghanistan with the Seaforth Highlanders of Canada showed him the value of our education system.
“When I first went there in 2006 all the children would be running up asking us for water,” said Street.
“One of the biggest breakthroughs we made was helping the Afghans develop public education. We had adults on the base completely illiterate, couldn’t write their own names – our translator didn’t know how old he was. When I deployed there again in 2009, all the kids wanted from us were pens so they could go to school.”
So it came as a shock when he read in The Vancouver Sun that the school down the road from where he lives – Birchland Elementary – has children coming in every day hungry with not enough money to feed them.
After all, this isn’t Afghanistan. “I just never imagined that was the case in Canada. In such a wealthy country, it’s awful. It’s a travesty. I had absolutely no idea this was going on. My kids play in that playground,” said Street.
On Dec. 7, The Sun carried an Adopt-A-School story in which Birchland principal Elspeth Anjos spoke about how money from donors and organizations that formerly supported feeding 15 or so children coming to school hungry, was drying up.
She told how volunteers making meals for these children were being forced to cut back on the quantity and quality of the food as resources dwindled. The AAS campaign was asked for $10,000 to continue feeding children at this school and two others in Port Coquitlam.
Street said he had heard the statistics – that one in five B.C. children live in poverty – “but it didn’t mean anything until I read that story.”
“The numbers sound so unbelievable you don’t internalize it until you hear it’s in your own neighbourhood.”
Street contacted The Sun for more information and then sent a cheque for $7,500 for food for Birchland.
“I gives me a great deal of joy to be able to do this,” he said. “And I’d like to thank you guys for telling people what’s happening. Obviously, a lot of people don’t know what’s going on.”
Karyn Bell, executive director of Kateslem Youth Society, which runs food programs in a number of Coquitlam schools and had requested the $10,000 from AAS, said she was amazed at receiving help from Street.
“We couldn’t believe it,” she said.
“I know people have gone into the school after the story ran wanting to help. We are very grateful.”
To date, The Vancouver Sun’s AAS campaign has requests for almost $500,000 to help feed and clothe children or provide other forms of poverty relief for families through the school system. More applications are expected.
Last year The Sun distributed $604,000 to 86 schools across the province where privation was having a direct effect on impoverished children’s education. One hundred per cent of donations go to help children; there are no administration fees taken from donations.
By Gerry Bellett (firstname.lastname@example.org)