We need help.
I just had a little boy, who was by himself out in the playground, and as he walked past me, I asked how he was. And he just burst out crying. He said, ’I'm lonely. I'm cold, and I'm hungry.’ I took him to my office and got him some food so he could sit in the warm and play with some toys, and just be a kid.
We have more and more children that are coming to school every day without kai, or without enough kai, families who don’t have the resources to feed them. I'm originally a nurse, and I can see the physical impact of these children not being fed, they’re really slim. And if you don’t have enough calories, you get cold. They can’t focus, can’t engage in their learning.
We've got one family that was sleeping in a friend's house in the backyard in a tent. No running water, no bathroom. Five kids in there. We have children in winter without shoes or warm clothing.
As a school we do what we can. We’ve got a teacher aide who’s been buying food. We have a group of parents who bring in what they can donate - and we drop it in the bags of kids who don’t have lunch so they can feel the same. But it’s not enough. And I think for a number of these kids, this is their only kai for the day. It's a muesli bar and a packet of chips. I have tried to get on to the ministry’s lunch in schools programme, but we don’t fit the criteria. It’s just an absolute no.
It takes its toll. I've been bringing in my own kids’ clothes to help a couple of families and going to the op shops and buying clothes for them. My kids get a little bit annoyed because I spend so much time in my personal life looking for sales. And in the school holidays I couldn’t cope that my family was going away on holiday knowing another family was in a tent. So, I dropped off a couple of shopping bags of food for the kids.
A recent survey found hundreds of principals want to leave the profession. I’m not saying I am - but on a wellbeing level I can’t maintain this.
I’ve tried to get funding. I've tried, and I've tried, and I've tried. We’re on the waitlist for KidsCan support, and it can’t come soon enough, but I know they need more donors before they can reach us. I worked in a KidsCan partner school before and it meant that we had kai, and jackets, and food for the kids and we could normalise that. Children wouldn’t have to come to the office trying to think of an excuse for why they didn’t have food - it was just there. And it would mean that I can put my energy elsewhere,
And I just think, what's going on? Why am I, as a principal who's here to lead education, having to pick up everything else before we can even teach the children? I don't mind helping, but that's not what I got in here for. And what I say to the wealthier parents here is your child is sitting in the classroom with these children who are cold and hungry. They can't focus on their learning. They're disrupting the learning of others around them. So, it is our responsibility to stand up and go, ‘Okay, what can we do? How can you fix that?’ At the end of the day, nothing's going to change if we don't speak up and go, ‘This isn't good enough. We need help.’
- Principal on our waitlist