It is unlikely there is anyone with a greater understanding of what it feels like to be hungry to the point of starvation, or to be in need of the help of strangers than Vancouver lawyer Jack Kowarsky.
He is now 82 years old, but in 1945, he was a six-year-old miracle — one of the very few Jewish children to survive the Holocaust in Poland.
“I know what it’s like to be hungry and a refugee,” said Kowarsky, whose family came to Canada with little more than the clothes on their backs at the end of the Second World War.
The empathy has led him to donate $75,000 to The Vancouver Sun’s Adopt-A-School program this year from the Lohn Foundation, of which he is an administrator.
Since 2014, he has directed $475,000 to Adopt-A-School.
The money has gone to inner-city schools in Surrey to provide meals for impoverished children coming to school hungry, many of them refugees.
“I’m privileged to be able to assist in feeding children when they come to school. They can have a good breakfast then proceed to class and focus on their school work,” Kowarsky said.
“Education holds the key for kids to live and develop their individuality and their potential to grow up and be responsible and honourable citizens. It’s the key element in their being able to attain wisdom, courage and self-respect, and I would encourage others to do the same and assist this cause.”
This year, the Adopt-A-School campaign is being asked for almost $2 million by more than 120 schools in the province to help teachers feed and clothe children coming to school hungry or without proper clothes for the weather.
This is a large increase in requests over previous years as schools are reporting more families are falling into poverty due to job losses from COVID and the effects of wildfires and flooding that has forced people from their homes.
The Vancouver Sun Children’s Fund, which administers Adopt-A-School, has sent more than $8 million in aid to schools since the program began in 2011.
The money allows teachers to intervene when they see obvious signs of hunger in children, or find them without proper clothes or footwear. It has enabled schools to set up breakfast or lunch programs for thousands of impoverished students who would otherwise go hungry.
Laurie Larsen, chair of the Surrey Board of Education, said the support from Kowarsky and Adopt-A-School “has been essential in ensuring our schools can respond to the needs of our students and their families.”
“We’ve been able to provide families with food, basic hygiene essentials and warm clothing. We are a community and we have a shared goal in supporting each and every child so they can thrive,” said Larsen.
“We are very grateful for this program and its donors.”
Sean Chambers, principal of Lena Shaw Elementary, described the help his school has received as “incredible.”
“It’s provided our school with the ability to assist our families when they are in need of food and clothing. It truly makes each child feel cared for.”
Kowarsky knows what it is like to suffer. He also knows what it’s like to be grateful.
“Everyone needs a helping hand at some time in their life. I’m grateful for the help I’ve received. When you can help someone else, you should.”
By Gerry Bellett (firstname.lastname@example.org)