About a quarter of the kids at Matheson Secondary come from low-income families
After all the travails caused by the pandemic — unemployment, hunger and the stresses that come with sudden impoverishment — the Mendoza family is finally getting back on its feet.
“We’re a big family, there’s me, my husband and five children, and parents who are old,” said Elizabeth Mendoza.
Her youngest child is a baby.
The last year saw them all plunged into poverty after she was out of work and COVID-19 cost her husband his job.
Thankfully, the staff at L.A. Matheson Secondary in north Surrey had their backs.
“Oh man, I can’t be more grateful for what that school did. They supported me in need. Having five kids, it was not easy dealing with COVID, having a baby and me not working … my husband having a hard time finding work …”
“But the school came in when I definitely needed them and they helped us out with food and things,” she said.
At times, Mendoza had to choose between paying rent and buying food.
“That was our situation. It was either one thing or the other.”
She paid the rent and the school kept them going with food during the day for her children and with hampers and gift cards at weekends for the whole family.
The funds that helped the family came from The Vancouver Sun’s Adopt-A-School campaign which has raised $6.5 million since 2011 to feed and clothe children coming to school hungry or poorly clothed.
This year more than 100 schools are requesting almost $1 million in aid to help children and families suffering from poverty and need.
L.A. Matheson has 1,136 students and a quarter of them come from families with low incomes, says Ann Nitchie, the school’s child and youth care worker.
The school provides breakfast and lunch for students arriving hungry or with no food to get them through the day.
The emergency funds from Adopt-A-School are used to help families who find themselves without the means of paying for necessities that are needed for their health and welfare.
“The (AAS) money provides emergency food at weekends, clothing, hygiene products for students — some parents can’t afford to get their kids haircuts,” said Nitchie.
“We have many refugee families and they are not used to the cold weather and a lot of our kids are seeing snow for the first time, so a lot of our money goes for clothing.”
“Kids come in — sandals, no socks — it’s raining. They’ll come in wearing shorts and a T-shirt with no coat, no jacket, no sweater.
“That’s why the funding is so important. We can help take the burden off parents,” said Nitchie.
“It helps us build trust just like we did with Elizabeth and her family. They know they can come to us for help.”
With her husband just finding work the Mendoza family is slowly recovering.
“Yes, we’re getting back on our feet,” said the mother.
“I have to thank God for that school.”
By Gerry Bellett (firstname.lastname@example.org)