For many families across Australia, heading back to school is a time of excitement, new clothes, bags and packaged lunches. But there are families who struggle to make the budget stretch they are sadly forced to make difficult decisions between providing daily necessities for their children or school supplies.

The St Vincent de Paul Society assists families throughout the year with some bills, food and other household items to help alleviate cost of living expenses. The hope is to assist people in meeting some of the costs around getting kids ready for school each year.

To do this the Society’s network of members work individually with families to make sure that children have the resources they need to get the most out of their education. We all know how vital education is to helping break the cycle of poverty and disadvantage; so it is important that no child is left behind when it comes to learning.

In 2013, the Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS) report on child poverty found that nearly 600,000 children are living in homes where the income is below the poverty line. Education is one of the most important steps for breaking the cycle of poverty for many.

But it’s also the other programs that will provide additional support that value add to the education they are receiving. During the year, the Society runs a number of activities to support disadvantaged young people with homework clubs, kids camps, mentoring programs and school supplies. If you’re in need of family assistance, see more information in the Find Help section of this website.

The importance of kids camps

In Queensland, Buddies Days and Kids Camps are a place where young people aged 8-12 years can get away from their daily lives, have some fun, build their confidence and learn new skills.

Our Kids Camps are about giving at-risk children a fun break where they can make new friends and connect with young adult role models who journey alongside them for the weekend. Before school started more than 50 disadvantaged children, supported by close to 60 volunteers, headed out to two camps over a weekend.

All children on the camps are referred by St Vincent de Paul Society conferences after supporting their families through difficult times. The children at Brisbane split into teams and decorated their hats with their Vinnies Values. The children had fun learning new skills including playing football on a blow up field, learning Flippaball in the pool, participating in a puppet theatre talent show and a treasure hunt. Every child and volunteer created their own star jars that were filled with positive and nice affirmations that showed their bravery on camp. Everyone’s jar went home brimming.

On Tambourine Mountain the children participated in fun activities including archery, completing a mud survivor course and learnt bush walk survival skills which boosted their confidence. During the day they also made new friends and went swimming.

Everybody needs a buddy

Geraldine* looks forward to the days when five of her six children head out for a Buddies Day outing, giving her some respite.

These outings are an opportunity for her children to go on a fun outing with a buddy and other kids their age.

Geraldine says her kids love going on their Buddies Day and always ask how long it is until the next time they will go on an outing. She found out about the program from another family and her children have been participating now for about a year. Geraldine drops off and picks up her children from a designated location and said her kids are always happy when they come home.

The Buddies provide support to her children and the program has seen their circle of friends expand. Her children really appreciate the time they have with their Buddies and made them a special Christmas card last year.

*Name has been changed

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