When I was a kid, at the start of each year I remember excitedly going to shop for my new stationery and uniforms. I loved it. Yep, stationery and organisational nerd right here!

After we shopped, I’d spend hours in my room ‘contacting’ all my books (do they even have contact anymore? Please tell me someone else remembers contact and I’m not the only old duck?), arranging all my gear in my folders, then packing my bag so it was ready to head back to school.

Our kids Harry and Aoife, who are 2.5 and 1, haven’t started school yet, but I know even just kitting them out for day care costs a fair bit. Labels, clothes, backpacks, drink bottles, shoes...the amount of ‘stuff’ they require can be a bit never ending!

Harry and Aoife are very lucky that we can afford everything they need for their education. But not everyone in Australia is in the same position.

Currently, 1.1 million children and young people (one in seven!) are living in poverty in Australia, which means they’re less likely to succeed at school and more likely to experience financial hardship as adults.

Wow. I find this number absolutely shocking and heartbreaking. I can only imagine what they must face throughout their lives. Which is why I was keen to support Officeworks and The Smith Family in their Back to School Appeal.

Now in its fourth year, the Officeworks Back to School Appeal raises funds that 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.

Learning for Life is all about giving children the long-term educational assistance they need to attend school, engage in their learning and complete Year 12. It provides financial, practical and emotional support through the educational learning and support programs in disadvantaged communities.

One of those students who benefitted from the help and support of The Smith Family was Rhiannon. Growing up, Rhiannon (who is now 19 years old) had a tough home life, which 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...”

When Rhiannon went to live with her grandmother, she was matched with a sponsor through Learning for Life and it was the first time she’d ever had new items for school - she was amazed by the difference it made in her learning:

“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,” said Rhiannon.

“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,” she said.

Harry and Aoife have all the early learning tools they need and they thrive because of it. I can’t imagine them growing up without these. Being able to complete a successful education is a pathway out of poverty. I firmly believe that the education both my husband and I had growing up has played a huge part in what we have achieved in our lives so far, and will continue to hold us in good stead for the rest of our family’s lives.

Please, join us by donating to Officeworks Back to School Appeal in store whilst doing your back to school shopping at Officeworks or online - because there are so many children out there less fortunate than our own, and each and every one of us can help make a difference to them.

 

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