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SocietyApril 7, 2019

A quarter of a million NZ kids are living in poverty, and it comes as no suprise

Image: Pixabay.
Image: Pixabay.

Newly released child poverty statistics show that 254,000 Kiwi kids are living in poverty. For the young people affected, it’s much more than just a number, writes Lorraine Taylor of Variety.

Every day, applications that cross my desk speak to the challenges our families, and our tamariki, face.

Some of our most vulnerable children are going without the most basic of essentials, because their related costs simply do not fit into their families’ already stretched budgets. From big ticket items like laptops for school, necessary for today’s students; to basic essentials many of us take for granted, such as beds and bedding; and everyday items such as a school uniform, a warm jacket and a pair of shoes – too many necessities are out of reach for hundreds of thousands of Kiwi kids.

Just last week Variety provided a clothing grant to a 16-year-old boy, who, for the last 12 months, had only his school uniform to wear, whether he was at school or not.

Having gone through a growth spurt, his father’s clothes were too small for him to wear and borrow, and the family’s financial pressures meant the only clothing they could purchase, in an entire year, was a school uniform.

The impact on this child’s self-esteem was heart-breaking; he lost a lot of confidence in himself and would avoid leaving the house for anything other than going to school.

And this is just one example of the 4,785 children Variety has and is supporting this year alone, each going without some of the most basic essentials that children deserve.

We know the profound effect this has on our children, with classrooms across the country filled with anxious kids who are sadly very aware that they do not have the same things as everyone else.

The extent of child poverty in Aotearoa New Zealand is creating a group of children that are not benefitting from the opportunities that many Kiwi kids experience as part of growing up in our country and it is just not good enough, nor sustainable.

We commend the government on the initiatives they are taking to address child poverty. However, kids living in disadvantage need help now. As I write this, there are 476 children on our numerous waiting lists for vital support.

Some are waiting to receive a bed and bedding. Currently they’re sleeping on the floor, couches or sharing their sleeping space with others, the chances of shared infections are increased along with simply not getting enough sleep to start the day refreshed and ready to learn.

More than 150 children are on our Kiwi Kid Sponsorship waitlist, many going to school in a uniform that might be too small, or incorrect, others spending their days cold, without a warm jacket or covered in shoes, and too many are missing out on vital development opportunities, like being able to take part in their school camp, or joining a sports team.

As soon as these children are sponsored, they will have access to the exact basic essentials, and extra-curricular opportunities, they require. It costs as little as $45 per month – that’s just over $11 per week.

If you can, I encourage you to sponsor a disadvantaged Kiwi kid today, and help to give them the childhood they deserve.

Keep going!