CABE | Coquitlam
$300 raised
1% of $27k goal
4 contributors
86 Weeks running
CABE is making a difference in the lives of many students, including teen moms, who struggle to make it in the regular school system. We need to raise $27,000 this year to help the students of CABE for everything from food, bus tickets, clothing and more.

This time of year, charity fatigue often sets in.

As we’re busily recovering from the bounty that is Christmas, or maybe even planning to hit a few Boxing Day sales, it somehow seems even more pressing to stop for a moment and think about others in need, the less fortunate who live outside our orbit.

There are many worthy charities asking for help over the Christmas season so it can be overwhelming. Some are strategically stationed outside liquor stores, some are represented by written pleas that come through the mail slot, some tell their story through the cashier at the supermarket whose job is not just to ring up broccoli.

And so we give, happily so, wanting to spread good cheer and seasonal comfort for those needing it most.

What’s often missing from the equation, though, from the knowing that we are doing good by giving to others less fortunate, is how that donation directly affects the recipient.

That’s not the case with The Vancouver Sun’s charity, Adopt-a-School, which was started by this newspaper in 2011 to help feed, clothe and otherwise support hungry and needy public schoolchildren. Since then, we have raised and granted more than $2 million to Metro Vancouver school kids.

With Adopt-a-School, you don’t have to go far to see first-hand how your donation directly affects the school.

Nor is it hard to pinpoint a real success story.

Meet Jessica Ouellet. She is 21, works a 50-plus-hour week and is the mother of five-year-old Kaylee-Anne. A few weeks ago, she and her fiancé Kent Morrison welcomed daughter Emmy, which has her on maternity leave at the moment and planning her upcoming wedding.

Today, things are good for Ouellet. She got her driver’s licence a year ago and now has a reliable, used minivan that gets her back a forth to her home in Maple Ridge.

But it wasn’t always so.

In 2009, when she was 15, Ouellet was pregnant, alone and living on welfare. It was a bleak life. Her daughter’s father was out of the picture, and there was barely enough money to pay the rent and look after her child, let alone allow her to focus on graduating from high school.

And then she enrolled at CABE.

Coquitlam Alternate Basic Education, a 200-student public secondary school servicing the Tri-Cities, on Foster Avenue in Coquitlam, is designed for students experiencing social and behavioural issues, and its student body includes a class of about a dozen teen mothers who attend regular curriculum and take parenting courses while their children are tended to in an on-site daycare.

Ouellet rose to the academic and new-parent challenge, graduated from CABE in 2013 and progressing to Coquitlam Continuing Education, where she earned her Health Care Certificate. Today, she works with the handicapped, with people affected by dementia and autism, and hopes to go back to school after her leave and eventually work with troubled youth, perhaps emulating CABE youth worker Jill Allen, who took Ouellet under her wing from the start.

“She’s been like my mom,” says Ouellet, who still visits Allen at the school. “I am still involved. I check in here all the time. I could never fully let go of this school.

“I wouldn’t have graduated if it wasn’t for CABE. To have teachers sit down, take time, it made all the difference.”

Ouellet knows that she owes some of her good fortune to Vancouver Sun readers, who have responded generously to stories our reporters have written about CABE and its goals.

One of those readers was Nezhat Khosrowshahi, whose company Wesbild donated scholarship money for students at CABE planning to pursue post-secondary education, including teen mom grads.

Without Wesbild’s generosity, and that of others who donate baby clothes and toys, diapers and toiletries, many of the students would simply fail, overwhelmed by life’s obstacles, says principal Cindi Seddon.

“So many of our kids, their eye is on the prize, which is graduation. And then there’s nothing,” says Seddon, which is why the Wesbild scholarships are making such a difference.

CABE and its related programs have received nearly $60,000 in Adopt-a-School grants since 2012, but the need for all its students persists. A recent application for funding is seeking funds for food and clothing vouchers, as well as bus tickets, given that lack of transportation is often a reason students don’t attend school.

Seddon is also asking for funds for her young parents program to supply the mothers with necessities such as diapers and formula (although some of the teen mothers continue to breastfeed while attending class). And a new fridge is also on the wish list.

Seddon, like Ouellet, is overwhelmed by just how much generosity is out there and the difference it can make to a struggling student, to a teenage mother on her own.

“There’s a big heart for young parents in the community,” says Seddon.

Adds Ouellet: “I didn’t think I’d make it past 16. But now everything I do is for my daughters. I talk differently, I act differently. I grew up.”

This province has children who arrive at school each morning hungry, improperly clothed or without adequate footwear.

Not just dozens or hundreds. Thousands.

All they can hope for is the compassion of teachers to help them endure these miseries. To their great credit it is not unusual to find teachers and principals attempting to feed and clothe these children out of their own pockets.

There was a time the education system could do more for children stricken by poverty but budget constraints have dried up most of that funding.

It was for this reason the Vancouver Sun began its Adopt-A-School (AAS) campaign five years ago when it became apparent that some teachers in Vancouver’s inner city schools were buckling under the stress and needed assistance.

So we asked our readers to help.

The help that materialized from individual and corporate donors was astonishing. It is not possible to put an accurate dollar amount on what readers have contributed because in some cases the help goes directly to schools. All we can say is that almost $3 million has been received here every penny of which is designated for schools across the province.

So here we are another year, another appeal for help.

But what else can we do? Hunger is incessant. You are only separated from it by thetime since your last meal. And for the poor that gap is often unmanageable.

In this campaign there will be accounts from teachers who say they see children arriving at school who have not been fed that morning, have no food to last the day and who will be returning home with no prospect of finding anything to eat there either. It is a description of starvation. How can we ignore it?

You will be told of children feeding other children at school splitting their lunches so their classmates won’t be left hungry. This is not something that children should be left to deal with.

Canada has a wonderful international reputation for coming to the assistance of countries devastated by natural disasters or conflict and our United Nations commitment is without peer. But we are the only developed nation that does not have a national food program to feed its hungry school children. Regardless of party perhaps our politicians can explain why it’s necessary for children to be feeding other children. This newspaper asked as much in an editorial earlier this year. No one, it seems, is in a hurry to answer.

Thanks to the generosity of our readers no school that has asked for help to feed children has been refused. Often they have received more than they sought. AAS has set up fully funded breakfast programs, has provided money for clothing, shoes and boots, lice kits, transit tickets, field trips, emergency food vouchers to help struggling families over weekends, helped young mothers attending school with their babies. We have equipped school kitchens with stoves and fridges, dishwashers, cutlery, and washing machines, equipped sensory rooms, rebuilt an abandoned greenhouse so it could grow vegetables for low income families, provided computers and other technical aids to special needs children.

In short done all we could to alleviate the awful effects that poverty inflicts on our children attending school.

This year is no different. Please help.

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