Adopt-A-School: Holocaust survivor knew hunger, now supports needy kids

Adopt-A-School: Holocaust survivor knew hunger, now supports needy kids

Vancouver lawyer Jack Kowarsky’s $50,000 donation to program that feeds hungry students ‘important for a child’s development’

It’s a story, fable and prophecy all wrapped up in 40 words, and the writing on the wall is clear: If poverty is allowed to interfere in a child’s education, society eventually suffers.

“Mary’s family can’t afford a computer. If she has three essays to write and the library closes in one hour, how much higher will the crime rate be in 2050?”

“The solution to community safety starts with high school graduation.”

This message posted by is to be found on the inside of buses running around Vancouver.

Meanwhile, out in North Surrey — in Prince Charles elementary school on 100th Avenue — that message is the very issue driving the 8 a.m. breakfast being served on this morning to 50 hungry children.

“We know from statistics that if a child misses 10 per cent of classes before Grade 4 their chances of graduating are seriously affected,” said Harman Dhaliwal, business development manager for the Surrey school district.

And in order to combat the implications of poverty-induced absenteeism, the district implemented its Attendance Matters program eight years ago with the support of the Vancouver Sun’s Adopt A School (AAS) campaign.

Attendance Matters uses breakfast as an attraction to bring some children into school who otherwise might not come, said Dhaliwal.

“It definitely reduces absenteeism,” he said. “And we know how important that is for a child’s development and their chances of success.”

When Attendance Matters started it involved just a few schools, but now there are 23 schools — many of them inner-city schools — containing a significant number of impoverished students coming to school hungry.

This year Surrey is seeking $100,000 from AAS to pay for breakfast for 1,000 children in the program.

Vancouver lawyer Jack Kowarsky administers the Lohn Foundation, which is the largest single contributor to Attendance Matters through AAS.

This year his donation of $50,000 will bring the total to $325,000.

“I’m delighted to be able to do it,” said Kowarsky who was invited to the school to see his donation at work.

“We need to give these children every chance to succeed.”

He is 80 years old but still works a full day in his downtown Vancouver office, rising at 4 a.m. each morning.

Born in Poland in 1939, he was one of the very few Jewish children of that country to survive the Holocaust.

“I know what hunger is,” he said. “And I know what it’s like not to be properly clothed. I was eight before I ever had a pair of socks. That was in the American sector in Germany.”

Surrey school district superintendent Jordan Tinney paid tribute to Kowarsky’s support of Attendance Matters.

“His generous donations provides students with a nutritious breakfast … and it’s thanks to community leaders like Mr. Kowarsky our schools are able to meet the basic needs of students, ultimately contributing to their academic and personal success,” said Tinney.

Principal Dona Lomax, who has been at the school since 2015, said hunger and privation in children was getting worse.

“We are seeing more need,” said Lomax. “There are a lot of single parents struggling (financially), some under-employed, some unemployed. Many families are losing stability, there’s an increase in transiency — the kids, you see them going from school to school to school.

“It’s difficult for all of them.”

This year, dozens of schools across the province are seeking almost $1 million from AAS for a wide variety of needs, including food and clothing, in order to lessen the suffering being inflicted on children by poverty.

By Gerry Bellett (

Get Involved. Share the story or donate now.

More Info