Funds help fight quake kids' stress

TINA LAW
Last updated 05:00 18/02/2013

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A $9.3 million Red Cross grant will help Canterbury children to laugh again, Parkview School principal Les Gray says.

The grant, from the New Zealand Red Cross earthquake appeal fund, could see 71,000 primary and secondary school children from Christchurch and the Selwyn and Waimakariri districts access between $60 and $240 each.

The money will be used to help children deal with anxiety, stress and behavioural problems caused by the earthquakes.

It will also help them access activities and resources that have been limited by quake-related financial hardship.

Gray said his school and many others throughout Canterbury had seen more anxiety and behavioural problems in children since the earthquakes began.

He knew of the financial strain being faced by families at the school and had restricted the number of activities and visiting shows since the quakes.

Gray said he hoped the grant would enable the school to have more of those activities again.

"Parents just want to see their children laugh and have a bit of fun as well."

The school would also look at subsidising swimming lessons and camp costs with the Red Cross funds, he said.

"It's well-timed because a lot of people from outside Christchurch think that we are over it, but families will not be over it for quite a while."

Red Cross 2011 Earthquake Commission chairman Sir John Hansen said the Red Cross wanted to make a positive difference to the lives of children. "We want to foster resilience, both for their own sakes and for the future of Christchurch."

The money will be distributed through schools and can be used to provide resources and assistance directly to pupils. It cannot be used for operational or capital costs.

A tiered funding system will be used to target children who are less likely to have resources available to them.

Pupils at decile 1, 2 and 3 schools will be eligible for up to $240. Pupils at decile 4 to 7 schools can access up to $120, and pupils at decile 9 and 10 schools can get up to $60.

Heather Couch, a mother of three school-age children, said the grant was fantastic because many parents could no longer afford to contribute to school activities for their children.

Canterbury Secondary Principals' Association chairman Neil Wilkinson said the grant showed the young people of Christchurch that their needs had not been forgotten.

The Red Cross has already distributed $82m from its earthquake fund to 95,708 people. There is still $14m available for projects.

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