Starting school is a proud milestone for any five-year-old. From the new school uniform through to bags, lunchboxes and stationery, it’s also an exciting time for the whole family watching their child step into the next chapter of their lives.
But for some families, it’s also prohibitively expensive. It’s tough finding the money to pay for the school essentials, not to mention a fifth birthday celebration when the family budget is minimal.
This is why a Marlborough family has stepped up to establish a registered charity that aims to make the school transition successful, enjoyable and less stressful for those experiencing significant hardship.
Michelle Munro, together with her mother Brenda Munro and aunt, Margaret Smith, recently launched School Start First Impressions Marlborough to help reduce the impact of poverty on the education of local children. The three women are dedicating their time and energy to providing a ‘5 kitbox’ to these children turning five, which contains everything they need to celebrate their fifth birthday and start school ‘on an equal footing with their peers’.
Michelle was inspired after hearing about Jane Thomas and her family, who established the original charity in Auckland. “They were on the news, celebrating the fact they had sent out their 1000th box. I saw it and shared the story on my social media saying how I’d love to do this if I had the resources. The next thing Mum and my aunt caught on and we decided to make it happen,” Michelle says.
Michelle, Brenda and Margaret met with Jane Thomas and the other two trustees of the Auckland charity ‘School Start First Impressions’ last November and gained their “blessing” to replicate it in Marlborough. “It was Jane’s dream to spread it through the country. We loved the idea of it and felt it would really benefit a lot of families in Marlborough, so here we are,” says Michelle.
Along with the family’s initial investment of their own money to “get things going”, the project has also received funding from the Marlborough District Council. “We’re relying on donations to be able to put these kits together, and in turn we will spend it locally,” says Michelle. “These kits are for local families, so it’s really important to us that we spend this money in Marlborough.”
Referrals for the 5 kitbox come from agencies such as Te Piki Oranga, Oranga Tamariki and Maataa Waka. They identify a child in need, and then approach the family for permission and confirmation of the school the child is enrolled with.
“They also find out about the child’s interests, so we can match a gift, provide a birthday cake and include some of the things they’d like in the kitbox,” Michelle says. “We give the kitbox to the social worker and they take it to the family to celebrate with them. We’re so happy to be able to provide this service and are excited to see it coming together.”
The Trust is grateful for any financial donations, or businesses willing to provide products for the kits.