Poor Chch children need sponsors

JODY O'CALLAGHAN
Last updated 05:10 22/01/2014

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A charity is crying out for donors as poverty-stricken parents seek sponsorship for the back-to-school costs of their children.

More than 170 applications have been made for Kiwi Kid sponsorship so far this year, including 21 from Christchurch, and Variety - The Children's Charity needs more sponsors.

There were already 705 children - 116 from Christchurch - receiving financial support nationwide in its first year, much like that offered to children in Third World countries through World Vision.

Canterbury social worker Angela Swinney said the cost of living had become "extreme", forcing families to reach out for help supporting their children.

Variety chief executive Lorraine Taylor was calling for more sponsors to "level the playing field" for children going to school.

"What we're seeing is a growing divide between the haves and the have nots. The need is definitely there," she said.

Sponsors paid at least $35 a month, with 20 per cent going towards administration costs.

A sponsored child could receive $336 a year if deemed eligible, usually paid directly to providers for school camps, uniforms, stationery, extracurricular activities, clothing and health needs.

Sponsorship lasted until the age of 18, as long as parents could prove their need still existed every year.

Businesses often did collections to sponsor, and some families sponsored children so their kids could realise there were others not doing so well.

"People really want to help and appreciate that there are still people struggling in Christchurch as a result of the earthquakes," Taylor said.

Sponsors got updates on their sponsored child's progress, along with photos and a first name.

Not having basics created "barriers" since parents often kept their children from starting until they could provide, "just the same as other kids in the classroom". Swinney, a Birthright field worker, said many single Canterbury parents needed financial support now more than ever. About half of its 162 clients received Kiwi Kid sponsorship.

Uniforms could cost about $400, stationery about $40 and about $135 was needed for school camps by the first week of school.

The most common need among families was for warm clothing, bedding and back-to-school basics, especially with the rise in living costs and rent in Christchurch, she said. "Definitely, I would say there has been an increase [in need]."

According to Children's Commissioner Russell Wills there were 265,000 Kiwi children living in poverty.

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