And thanks to the efforts of the Back2School Project (B2SP), more local youngsters have been given the best possible start.
The registered charity supplies families in need with new stationery and backpacks, so kids have the right tools from day one.
According to Jennifer Cherry, B2SP’s founder, data shows that tamariki who feel confident on the first day have a successful school year. 'Our backpacks are full of all the stationery and equipment they need,’ says Jennifer. ‘Our backpacks are more than simply bags,’ she says, adding that they represent a tool, a mindset, and a future.
Set up six years ago, the charity started in just one school. However, since those early days, demand has exploded. They have helped 354 students from 17 different West Auckland schools this year alone.
Every parent knows how expensive school stationery and backpacks can be. However, with the ongoing impacts of Covid and the cost-of-living crisis, more families than ever are struggling.
‘I hear stories all the time of students right here in our local community who would prefer to stay home rather than face their first day of school without the proper tools,’ explains Jennifer. ‘B2SP is just scratching the surface,’ she adds.
For a small charity like B2SP, fundraising is always a challenge. However, a successful application to the Your West Support Fund has helped ease the burden. The $5,000 funding has been invested in new backpacks, offering more choice and variety for tamariki.
‘For many kids, our backpacks are the only thing they have that’s their own,’ reports Jennifer. Many kids make do with hand-me-downs or second-hand school bags, she advises.
The impact a brand-new backpack has is significant. ‘I felt good when I got my bag,’ says one seven-year-old student. ‘My mum and dad live in a motel. When they don’t have money, they have to ask around.
It’s clear that B2SP's simple idea is making a massive difference, allowing more young Westies to grow and learn.