As many parents throughout the country struggle to cover the extra costs of sending their children back to school supplied with the correct stationery and clothing, one creative church in Lower Hutt, Wellington has come up with a solution.
For the sixth year in a row Hope Centre, Lower Hutt has funded and organised their Back to School party which helps more than 200 Hutt Valley children from low decile schools return to school in style!
Not only do the children have supplies gifted to them they also have a fun day out. This year the party theme was World of Wonders including elements of steampunk and Alice in Wonderland. The centre’s auditorium was a mass of colourful helium balloons and had an archway and trees decorated in huge paper crepe flowers. More than 90 church volunteers were also wearing the theme’s fancy dress costumes or bright red Back to School t-shirts.
Children and parents/caregivers are guided through the facility collecting supplies and goodies on the way while all the time having fun. Stopping for a slide on the bouncy castle, having their faces painted, visiting the special sweets grotto and collecting their bag of lollies, enjoying a refreshment stop at the cafe or visiting the Lego table and receiving some free blocks. The Wellington Lego Users group partnered with Hope Centre for the day by donating to the event. Meanwhile, Hope Centre supplied volunteers for a Lego event.
To ensure each child doesn’t miss any of the essential stops volunteers click the card hanging around their necks marking out each station. The route includes the shoe stand for a brand new pair of school shoes (volunteers visit the schools beforehand to get each child’s shoe size) donated from The Shoe Company New Zealand.
Then it’s off to choose a bright new back pack and a jazzy tag for it. There is an array of colourful t-shirts to select with an inspirational message “an amazing outstanding person lives in this t-shirt” boldly written across the front. The new lunchbox and drink bottle stand is always popular.
Then it’s upstairs for school stationery for the year. Hope Centre volunteers have each child’s stationery lists sent in and pre-cover the books in Duracell™. The children then get the fun and creative job of decorating and naming their supplies with stickers and pens. This year for the first time the children were also offered childrens’ storybook Bibles in English and Te reo from Bible Society New Zealand.
Stocked up and ready to go, the kids are beaming on the inside and out knowing they have everything they need for the school year ahead. Meanwhile, parents and caregivers have a huge burden lifted off their shoulders.
Event organiser, Lynne Polglase, Hope Centre Pastoral Care Co-ordinator says, “ We want to demonstrate how important children are, and celebrate education.” The event sought to purposefully target child poverty. Mrs Polglase said, “Sometimes people feel the task is too big but the reality is everyone can do something.
The personal attitude in my heart is that nothing is a problem but only a solution waiting to happen. We want this event to have repercussions. Who knows where the dream will go we may even extend into Porirua.
“What’s so inspiring about this event is we’re touching families the church isn’t touching and bridging the gap between church and community,” she said.
Mrs Polglase was walking up the street six years ago praying about the church’s community iniative for the year when God gave her the idea of free school bags and stationery for under privileged kids. She had seen harassed parents shopping gathering their childrens’ supplies and had the thought (having been a social worker 20 years ago) “What happens to parents who can’t afford to buy stationery?”
She continued, “When God gives me an idea its like his favour, or smile, is all over it. So I was not worried about raising the money, $25,000 this year.”
The amount is funded mainly through the generosity of people in the church as well as other key businesses already mentioned. And this year one church member even held a garden fair in Greytown to help raise funds.
If you would like to get in touch with the Hope Centre to find out more click here