As a mother I always strive to provide the best for my son. Archie has been in daycare since he was 10 months old. It was important to me that he wasn’t only being cared for whilst I worked to support our family but the educational programs and experiences that were in place to ensure that he is getting the best possible start to life. Some people don’t even consider this until their child is in kindergarten or even primary school. I am fortunate enough to be in a position to provide the best opportunity for my son. It is difficult to comprehend how a family’s financial circumstances can determine your child’s future. It is actually fact that in Australia today, 1 in 7 children and young people grow up living in poverty. This statistic alone has a huge impact and long term effect on future education and employment.
Whether it be public or private education, education can be an expensive exercise, and it can be extremely tough for families that don’t have a healthy financial circumstance. So Officeworks has partnered with The Smith Family for the fourth year to support its Back to School Appeal. Money raised through this appeal goes to support The Smith Family Learning for Life program across Australia.
Many of the students they support are growing up in low or no-income homes where affording life’s basics is a daily struggle. These children are likely to live in single parent homes and their families may also be dealing with the challenges of long-term illness, disability, limited education or unemployment. . They are also likely to face extra challenges through their education.
Statistically it is these children that go on to experience financial hardship in their adult life. This has a snowball effect as the pressure gets too much and they are more likely to leave school before completing VCE which in turn limits their job opportunities.
The appeal is not just about providing them with pens and paper to get them through class. The Learning for Life program was developed to provide long-term support for children’s education, including financial help for school costs. Learning for Life program coordinators can help them get the most out of schooling and connect them to community resources. Children supported by Learning for Life also have access to a range of programs, such as Learning Clubs. The Learning Clubs help students to develop their academic and social skills in a safe and supportive environment where they have access to volunteer tutors who can help them with their homework and learning skills.
Rhiannon is now 19 and was a part of the Learning for Life program and believes it gave her the courage to back herself. “Every child needs somebody to advocate for them. I had my sponsor and a teacher and it changed my life,” said Rhiannon. Being able to complete a successful education is a pathway out of financial strain, which is why The Smith Family focuses on improving the educational outcomes of disadvantaged young people. In her early years, Rhiannon’s home life was tough and it affected her school life too.“I grew up experiencing a lot of stuff a child just shouldn't have to. I was placed in my grandmother's care in Year 8. I wasn't very confident at school. I was two grades behind where I was meant to be,” said Rhiannon.
“I think I always loved learning. I just wasn't confident enough to do anything about it, or I just didn't think I had to improve because we'd been told school wasn't important,” she shared. When Rhiannon went to live with her grandmother, she was matched with a sponsor. It was the first time she’d ever had new things for school. Rhiannon was amazed by the difference it made.
“When we got the sponsorship, Granny let me go to Officeworks and grab any book I wanted, and any textas and pencils. And a new pencil case. We never had any new pencil cases and stuff ... I felt like I fitted in after that. “By Year 11, school had become my second home … I felt safe there. [Before sponsorship] I used to feel like I didn't belong there,” said Rhiannon.
She was a long way behind in her studies. Deep down she knew she could do it, she just needed someone to believe in her. With the help of her sponsor and a teacher, Rhiannon got the support she needed to catch up at school.
“If it weren't for my sponsor and a particular teacher, then I would seriously not be where I am today. It's insane that two people put so much belief in a child … It's all a kid needs,” said Rhiannon. Rhiannon went on to university with the support of her mentor and she found this really helped her find her feet there. Now through her own success story Rhiannon wants to be the voice for other disadvantaged children. After experiencing first-hand how one person can transform a child’s life, she wants to aspire to do the same for other children in need.
We often forget how impressionable children can be and when I look back to my childhood I really looked up to my mother and how important it was to her that I got a good education and also strived to be the best I could be. My mother was pulled out of school at 15 years old to work alongside her brothers and sisters to support her family. Her family suffered financial strain and with five kids to help bring money home for food on the table, she didn’t have a choice. She worked in a lot of factories and was married at 18 where my father had a different idea of hat her life should be. He encouraged her to finish her studies and make something of herself. Much like Rhiannon my mother loved learning and went on to become an accountant. My mother would always tell me that knowledge is power and you will never know everything….but you can try!
Being able to complete a successful education is a pathway out of poverty, which is why The Smith Family focuses on improving the educational outcomes of disadvantaged young people. All funds raised through Officeworks’ Back to School Appeal will go towards supporting disadvantaged children through The Smith Family’s Learning for Life program, which currently supports the education of 33,000 disadvantaged children across Australia.
Officeworks has partnered with The Smith Family to help disadvantaged Australian students get the most out of their education and is encouraging customers to get behind the ‘Back to School Appeal’ by donating in store or online.