Adopt-a-School: Wishing Tree finally starts to deliver
May 8, 2016
Adopt-A-School: Former St. George’s student still pitching in for needy Vancouver children
December 26, 2014
Adopt-A-School campaign raises record funds for B.C. kids
May 12, 2019
Hungry Children: The story stays the same
I am weary.
Weary of writing about bad news that never seems to change, weary of telling the same story over and over, weary that no matter how important the message being imparted, we as a people seem unwilling to tackle the societal dysfunction staring us right in the face.
So, here goes:
On the block where you live, in the apartment building you call home, in the school you pass by every day, in the playground where children swing in the sunshine, in the park where mothers push strollers, in the supermarket where cash registers ring, in the basements of churches and the daycares of community centres, everywhere around you, children are going hungry.
All-day hungry. All-night hungry, too. The kind of hungry that notably marked the Great Depression. The kind of hungry featured in heartbreaking television appeals from Third World countries.
But this isn’t another time, or another place. This hungry is right now. Right here.
We are reminded, yet again, of this egregious reality clouding our little corner of paradise because, on Tuesday, the annual B.C. Child Poverty Report Card was released, courtesy of the First Call Coalition.
Founded in 1995, the First Call Coalition is a self-described “non-partisan coalition of over 95 provincial and regional organizations,” supported by institutions such as Vancity and the Vancouver Foundation, all working to highlight and improve conditions for children and youth through education, public advocacy and community mobilization.
The Child Poverty Report Card is one of several research tools it employs to highlight social, cultural and economic barriers adversely affecting B.C. children.
Researchers use an internationally recognized “low-income measure after tax” formula, and what it finds is this:
One in five children in B.C. — about 170,000, according to the report, with half of those in Metro Vancouver — are today living in families without the means to secure safe housing, without the money to buy basic necessities, like warm clothing.
Without the funds to buy food.
The findings are depressing and infuriating on so many fronts, but none more so than knowing that the statistical needle has not moved one notch since last year’s report.
How, then, do so many of us allow ourselves to absorb this shocking data every year and then simply move on to the next dinner party, the latest outlet mall, the trendiest iPhone upgrade?
We’re good at blaming others, for starters. It’s the culture of lazy, we say, and poor parental choices that put those children in jeopardy. It’s the governments’ fault, we say, for cutting back on funding and programs. It’s our rapacious, disposable, consumption-crazy world, we say, that cares more about possessions than humanity.
But what does it matter? Why the excuses when we know — when it’s impossible not to know — that there are thousands of children living among us who go without breakfast, who go to school with only a piece of bread for lunch, who lie down at night with rumbling stomachs?
How and when did we become so disconnected from our communities, from the needs of our neighbours, from the vulnerable children in our village?
Child poverty is a year-round disease, a curable disease, and we have allowed it to spread by turning a blind eye, by embracing complacency.
This newspaper, like other organizations, tries to do its part. Our Adopt-A-School program, currently in the midst of its annual fundraising campaign, has granted more than $2 million since 2011 to public schools to help feed children, as part of The Vancouver Sun Children’s Fund.
But we know, because we go into the schools and talk to the children and parents and educators and community workers, that we are nowhere near meeting the official need that is out there, and that the unofficial need is overwhelming.
We know it’s not just kids whose caregivers are on social assistance who need help. We know that it’s also children living within middle-class working families, and children of single parents, and immigrant children facing isolation and struggling with language and culture shock, all living on or near the poverty line.
So enough with the ho-hum, just-another-stat-in-paradise response to the crisis.
It’s time for those of us who can to do something. Time to demand change, feed a food bank, adopt a family, adopt a school.
Call this a tirade, a rant, a plea, a guilt trip, a call to arms. Or just a weary lament. It doesn’t matter.
What does matter is that while there are huge hearts out there (and to them we say thanks for continuing to feed hungry children by donating to AAS and like-minded charities), there are far too many of us living large in this land of plenty whose hearts are quite clearly two sizes too small.