Finding out that 24% of children in London are living in poverty is shocking. Like most traumatic revelations, I too was shocked, and I didn’t want to believe that this many children in a Canadian city, a city that I love, could be poor.
The truth is, it’s hard to see it. I was unable to tell which children were living in poverty and which were not. This is why children are both amazing and extremely vulnerable. They are masters at hiding their struggles beneath smiles, laughter and inexhaustible energy.
I wanted to find an opportunity to reach these children and families in need, but I didn’t know where to begin. There is an abundance of formal volunteering opportunities, but none of them seemed to fit my casual style.
I used to believe that in our rich society, with strong social programming, and where many give back, that every child, despite their financial circumstance, had access to at least one extracurricular activity, such as a soccer team, a school field trip, or a birthday party. That every child, no matter what side of the tracks they were born on, was taken care of by at least someone in our community. But sadly, this is not the case.
So, I decided to make a difference in a small way by volunteering at my daughter’s school for field trips and sporting events. I decided that when I visited the library, the playground, the park, I would open my eyes and heart with the knowledge that many of the children I see everyday - laughing and playing - are living in poverty. I focused on making sincere connections with the adults around them and starting conversations with their caregivers, teachers, and coaches.
In doing so, my life and theirs have been positively altered forever.
I have created intentional relationships which allows me to help in subtle ways - offering a ride, making an extra meal, giving movie tickets - just as I do for close friends.
Poverty is not an easy problem to solve. But solutions often involve simple human connection, knowledge and compassion – things that most of us have in abundance and are determined to share.
You can help change the conversation by sharing what you've learned with others.