Vancouver lawyer Jack Kowarsky knows what it’s like to be hungry and deprived. So, he’s given $650,000 to Adopt-A-School since 2014.
It is not unusual for teachers to describe children coming to school hungry, with holes in their shoes or shoes held together with duct tape, or to find they don’t have proper beds and are sleeping on the floor.
These are a few signs of how poverty is blighting lives of children — perhaps as many as one in five in Canada, according to the federal government — and why The Vancouver Sun’s Adopt-A-School campaign is necessary to help these children.
Readers of this newspaper obviously believe in the importance of helping teachers offer these children some relief and have provided donations that feed and clothe them and care for their welfare both in school and at home.
Without outside help, many teachers would be unable to provide the food, clothing and necessities these children need. They come to school hungry, without food to last the day, and even in the coldest parts of the province often don’t have adequate winter clothing or footwear.
Since AAS began in 2011, almost $12 million (not including this year’s grants) has been sent to hundreds of schools because of the concern and generosity of readers.
Some readers have never known poverty in their lives but there are those who have.
And when it comes to hunger, or not having shoes without holes, and sleeping on a concrete basement floor as a child, Vancouver lawyer Jack Kowarsky knows it all too well.
“Yes, that was how it was for me,” said Kowarsky, 84, a Holocaust survivor who came to Canada as a child refugee following the end of the Second World War.
“I had shoes with holes in them and my parents would cover the holes with cardboard which was OK until it rained. And I slept on the basement floor — for years I never had my own room. It was a struggle.”
This year Kowarsky, who can be found at his downtown office every day at 7 a.m., donated $100,000 to AAS from the Lohn Foundation of which he is a trustee.
That brings the total he has given AAS to $650,000 since 2014.
“Why? Well, I know what these children are going through. It’s not the childhood you would wish for them. To be hungry is an awful thing, believe me I know. So, I am glad to be able to help,” said Kowarsky.
It is a similar concern for the welfare of children that has led PCI Developments, the Vancouver-based company building a 39-storey mixed-use highrise at Granville and West Broadway, to support AAS.
Company president Tim Grant said his company began donating to AAS some years ago after seeing stories in The Sun about the condition of children coming to school hungry.
“It’s heartbreaking. Once we recognized this was an issue, we started thinking about the communities we do work in and felt we had to be able to help,” said Grant.
“We try to focus our giving around youth particularly, and education and food security — and this one really hit us.
“Of all the issues we have come across this is the one that really resonates with us and as a group we’ve always felt we want to do more,” Grant continued. “It’s something that really tugs at everyone here.”
This year, PCI Developments donated $80,000 for food programs in four inner city schools in Vancouver and $90,000 to five elementary schools in Surrey with similar high numbers of children coming to school hungry.
This year requests from schools and organizations for help total $2.7 million — a record — and a 22 per cent increase over last year’s requests.
There are no administration costs deducted from donations to AAS, 100 per cent goes to designated schools.
By Gerry Bellett (firstname.lastname@example.org)