Paediatrician Renee Liang talks about her first-hand experience with children in poverty, and why she donates to KidsCan.
''I’m a paediatrician, so I see first-hand the number of children who are living without the basics, and how that impacts on their health. Poverty affects everything - not just physical health, but mental, spiritual, and community health too. So, donating to KidsCan is a very small gesture of support, but it does have a really big impact.
I'm also a child health researcher and we know when kids are born, they often start off in a similar place in terms of health and potential. But over time, some kids will absolutely thrive, and others will do less well. So, we want to find out the factors causing that, and then what can be changed in our society so that every child gets to thrive.
I guess what KidsCan does is say, ‘Well why can't we change this narrative? Why can't we give as many children as we possibly can the ability to thrive, by providing the basics, warm clothing, things that also lift them up.’ What I really enjoy is that KidsCan has an emphasis on providing high quality products. I think that's really important. It's giving them things which help them feel the same as other kids.
For preschoolers, something as simple as having their own name on a new jacket is important, because at that age, their identity is developing. It can help them to know that they matter as much as the next kid. Then they go to school, realising that they're as important and as worthy as the next child, and they push themselves to do really well. So, what KidsCan provides might be material things, but it translates into more.
The evidence from Growing Up in New Zealand is that the first thousand days, from conception to your second birthday, is absolutely vital in terms of both having that warm, safe net of social support and love, so that you can develop, but also nutrition is really, really important. Because it essentially sets you up for the future in terms of your physical health, and developmental and mental health as well. There's plenty of evidence to say that children who receive the right nutrition and grow properly, will also achieve better at school and end up in higher paying jobs.
The research also shows that every parent just wants the best for their children. But some parents, due to that unfairness that we see in society, have to work several jobs, and so the kids don't necessarily get to see as much of them. Or they may not even be able to work, and that has a massive impact on families and their needs.
By supporting KidsCan you take away some of the stress from parents of providing those basics. It means they have more energy and more resource to provide the other things that the child needs as well, like time, attention, and encouragement, all these things that every parent wants to provide, and every parent tries to.
You won’t find a paediatrician who’s not passionate about equity and social justice, because we can see that those are the ultimate drivers of our work. Supporting KidsCan is a small practical thing I can do. If we’re not the people who can change policy, at least we can donate. At least we can make the difference to one or two families. With children, there's so much hope, and so much ability to change the course.''
''For preschoolers, something as simple as having their own name on a new jacket is important, because at that age, their identity is developing. Then they go to school, realising that they're as important and as worthy as the next child, and they push themselves to do really well. So, what KidsCan provides might be material things, but it translates into more.''
“I love being on the road. It really holds a special place in my heart, just getting to know people and their communities and hearing all of the passion and aroha that the kaiako [teachers] have for their kids. Just knowing the people behind the scenes that are cheering for the tamariki to do well, and putting all their efforts into making sure they have everything they need to do well, is huge."
There are those whose feats running the Auckland Marathon for KidsCan have made headline news. A firefighter who set a world record running in his full kit complete with breathing apparatus. And then there are the everyday Kiwis making a difference no matter their size, or the distance - like 6-year-old Toby Halse. He’s running 2.2km in this year’s Kids’ Marathon with his mates from Auckland’s Bayfield School, and says he has chosen to raise money for KidsCan because he hates to think of other children feeling hungry and having no jackets or shoes.