The Back to School Project 2021 targets providing 200 children and youth who live in chronic hunger in Waterloo Region with school supplies that they need, as well as a mental health booklet that contains activities and resources that can support them during these unprecedented times.
"I have grown up in a household where my family was able to provide for all my needs and more. Back to school time in August was a time that was really exciting because we would go shopping and I would come home with that new pack of 36 Crayola crayons (and other school supplies), ready to start the school year. But as I got older, I realized that not everyone was as fortunate; not all my peers were as fortunate. I also realized how heavily the lockdowns caused by COVID-19 were affecting me mentally. After listening to my friends talk about how they were also affected by it, I realized that there were many more children and youth in our community who may feel the same way, but may not have access to resources to support themselves. This realization fueled this project."
- Harneet Khangura, founder of Virtual Teach & Learn
The first day of school is important as it sets up a long-lasting attitude towards school and peers. Teachers recognize that students with a good start are far more likely to succeed as arriving prepared for the school day helps students feel confident in their ability to function in the classroom. But, back-to-school time can be a burden for many families who live under the poverty line for many reasons. One main reason is some families not being able to afford school supplies. Starting the school year with the needed school supplies helps to set a student up for success, but (based on the 2016 census) 1 in 8 children and youth in Waterloo Region were living under the poverty line. This equalled 14,485 children and youth from 0 to 17 years of age living in our community with low income. Of these 14,485 children and youth, over 2,500 live with chronic hunger. Because of this, when the 2021-2022 school year starts, a large number of children and youth will be faced with the struggle of not having the right supplies to start the year.
COVID-19 has heavily impacted everyone, including the children and youth in our community. The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) research team surveyed more than 1,000 parents of children and youth aged two to 18 years old, and nearly 350 youth between 10 and 18 years old, over the course of April to June of 2020. Final reports show that 70.2 per cent of school-aged children (six to 18 years old) and 66.1 per cent of preschool-aged children (two to five years old) reported deterioration in at least one domain of mental health - depression, anxiety, irritability, attention span, hyperactivity, and obsessions/compulsions. Financial strain, in addition to mental health struggles during COVID-19, within families is causing immediate harm to the mental health of children. Due to this, those in poverty have faced the greater consequences of these unprecedented times.
By providing children and youth who live in chronic hunger with the school supplies they need to start the school year, as well as a mental health booklet in which they can access resources to help themselves and do fun activities to support their mental health,
we will be able to academically and mentally support the children and youth that make up our community and future.
To reach the children and youth of our community who need our help the most, we are partnering with local charity Food4Kids Waterloo Region who will be our distribution partner to get these packages out. F4KWR is a charity that provides packages of healthy food for kids ages 1 - 14 years living with chronic hunger in the Waterloo Region, they will deliver the school supplies to the students that need our help and could most benefit from our project. By providing children and youth who live in chronic hunger with school supplies and a mental health booklet, we will be able to help students start their school year without the worry of not being able to purchase material, as well as reduce the trouble children and/or youth have to go through to access resources they can use to support themselves during these unprecedented times.Food4Kids Waterloo Region will be our Distribution Partner by helping deliver the school supplies to a pre-determined list of schools. If you have any questions please contact firstname.lastname@example.org