KidsCan is a New Zealand charity, based in Albany, Auckland dedicated to helping Kiwi kids living in hardship reach their full potential and create brighter futures for themselves.
The charity provides Kiwi kids in need with food, clothing and health items at school, so they can get into the classroom in a position to learn. “We do this because we believe that education equals opportunity, and all children, regardless of their social economic background should have an equal chance” says CEO and Founder Julie Chapman.
Chapman founded the organisation 12 years ago, after hearing continuous media stories of New Zealand children going without basic items like adequate food and warm clothing. “It sadly wasn’t one story in particular, but rather a number of stories of children going without the basics. A survey was sent to eighty low decile schools to assess the needs of their children. I was surprised to discover that thousands of children were missing out on the essentials that many of us take for granted including three meals a day, warm clothing, and health and hygiene items” says Chapman. “Teachers reported this was in turn effecting their education and opportunities in life, with children regularly absent from school or unable to concentrate in class”.
KidsCan started in 2005 in Chapman’s garage in Greenhithe. Her first initiative provided warm raincoats for children, followed by food to 40 low decile schools. “Raincoats were introduced as the first programme as it was coming into winter and many teachers talked about increased rates of absence during wet weather due to children not having a raincoat to get to school warm and dry. Parents would keep children home rather than send them to school as they were embarrassed that they were unable to provide coats for their children”.
Twelve years on, KidsCan has just reached a milestone of supporting 700 schools throughout New Zealand, providing access to food, clothing and basic health items for over 168,000 Kiwi kids and feeding over 30,000 children experiencing food insecurity every week. While Chapman has made a huge impact on the lives of many kids in that time there is one story that really stands out for her. “There was one little boy who was regularly in need of food. He was given a KidsCan lunch one day by his teacher and she saw him putting it into his bag. When asked why he was doing that he said that he really liked the lunch but he was taking it home to his mother as it was her birthday and there was no food at home. He was given another lunch so he and his mum didn’t go hungry.”
Chapman finds there are still a lot of people who have no understanding of the poverty experience in New Zealand, or the reason behind it. “They continue to blame the parents and make sweeping judgements about families without looking at them as individuals who each have their own story and set of circumstances. The majority of parents I see love their children and are doing the best they can with what they have.”
“The reality is that with the cost of housing and living, there is simply not enough money to cover the basics once essential bills have been paid. I would like to see people show more compassion for children living in poverty and remember it’s not their fault. It’s in the best interests of all New Zealanders to invest in these children while they are young so they don’t grow up without hope, without a proper education and without a future. All that happens then is they repeat the poverty cycle and that’s not good for anyone. “
Want to help?
Right now, there are 2,590 Kiwi kids waiting for KidsCan help. Their goal is to get support to as many of those children as possible in 2018 and Chapman is calling on more caring New Zealanders to join them. To learn more, visit KidsCan.org.nz