Every day in New Zealand, thousands of children go to school lacking one or more basic necessities including food, shoes or a warm jacket; and COVID-19 has only exacerbated the situation.
ASB is helping to change this by partnering with KidsCan to provide 5,000 winter jackets to children in need across the country. With COVID-19, an additional 10,000 children require support from KidsCan – an increase of almost 30%.
ASB chief executive Vittoria Shortt says no child should have to go to school cold.
“The past few months have been challenging for Kiwi families, and for some, COVID-19 will have put an additional strain on already struggling families. We want to continue to support the amazing work KidsCan does by providing these jackets, which will help 5,000 more children go to school warm this winter,” says Shortt.
ASB has worked with local Kiwi companies Profile and Adventure Outfitters to source the jackets, which are rainproof and fleece lined. The jackets will be distributed to low-decile schools around the country, where they are most needed.
“ASB has a significant role to play in the community, and we see our support of KidsCan as a hugely important part of that. New Zealand shouldn’t be a country where any child is going to school cold or hungry. We’re incredibly proud to be a KidsCan partner and to be helping them to make a difference,” says Shortt.
ASB signed on as a partner with KidsCan in 2019, supporting the hot meals programme. KidsCan currently support 787 schools and 57 early childhood centres, and have had additional requests from 10 new schools and almost 100 early childhood centres for support.
KidsCan chief executive Julie Chapman says the return to school following lockdown has been hard for many children as their families struggle to cope with job losses from Covid-19.
"We need to do all we can to support vulnerable families through this crisis. We've never seen so many children needing food support at school, and we know that number is only going to rise as more people lose their jobs. It's going to be a tough winter for many," says Chapman.
So far this year, KidsCan has provided more than 17,500 raincoats and 12,000 pairs of shoes to children in hardship. Chapman said the new winter jackets provided by ASB will help keep 5,000 more children warm and dry. She says for some it will be the warmest piece of clothing that they own.
“Winter is a really miserable time for children living in poverty," Chapman adds. "We know some are kept home from school when they don't have adequate clothing.
"A warm jacket is a luxury. The kids just love receiving something waterproof and cosy, and it means they can focus on learning instead of how cold they are. Teachers have even told us of children who sleep in their raincoats for warmth.
"We're grateful to ASB and its people for all they're doing to support us,” says Chapman.
Community is a big part of ASB’s focus, from partnering with organisations such as KidsCan, St John and Starship, through to helping with fundraising and volunteering.
Last year ASB provided 12 hours of paid leave for all staff annually to volunteer at organisations that are helping to protect the next generation of New Zealanders. ASB staff regularly provide hands-on support to KidsCan, helping prepare and dish up hot meals, and pack food and clothing for distribution to schools and early childhood centres.