When we think of the word poverty most of us probably picture children in countries overseas we have seen on our television screens hundreds of times. Their level of deprivation is extreme and visually confronting and it can be hard to put this into perspective with New Zealand’s predominantly hidden poverty issue where the children affected are invisible to most of us.
There is no doubt that children overseas need our support and Kiwis are a very generous bunch, contributing more than 100 million a year to international child sponsorship programs.
The question is, what does child poverty look like in New Zealand?
You probably live in a cold, overcrowded house that makes you ill, increasingly, with third world afflictions like rheumatic fever which other first world countries have completely eradicated. It means constant food insecurity. You probably go without breakfast and sometimes lunch several days a week. At KidsCan we have seen many children who have gone without food for 24 hours or more, as the cupboards at home are bare.
Your parents either struggle on a benefit that is too low to cover your rent, food, and power, or they work long hours for minimum wage and you never see them. It means missing out on the things your peers enjoy like sport, school trips, and birthday parties.
From a practical point of view it means you have most likely never owned a new piece of clothing and you probably don't have shoes. If you do they will be too big, too small or falling apart. In winter you don't have a raincoat to keep you warm and dry and so when it rains you stay home or go to school cold and soaking wet.
You do not get the start in life you need and deserve. And you can't take advantage of your education. You don’t get the essentials that every child has a right to, so you miss out on the opportunity to fulfil your potential.
As an adult it means you’re likely to get sick more often due to poor nutrition to be unemployed, have low self-worth. Your children are also more likely to live in poverty.
The work KidsCan does is not a silver bullet to solving child poverty but it does ensure children affected can get to and through the school gates in a better position to learn. This is having a huge impact on the health and well-being of our children and attendance and learning ability has increased.
In eight years of KidsCan we have never met a parent who does not want their child to have a better life than they may of had. Sadly many parents just don't know how to provide it as they too grew up in poverty and there was no KidsCan to help feed and clothe them.
At KidsCan we don't make judgements about parents. We simply get on with helping the kids, so they can go to school and have a chance at a better life. If you would like to help us to help them, please join our in our own back yard club and support a child for just $15 a month. 100% of your donation goes to the kids providing food, clothing, shoes, socks and basic health and hygiene items. Visit www.kidscan.org.nz to join now