When we think of poverty, our minds often jump to children and families in developing countries who are facing major socio-economic challenges like famine, civil war or disease. But we sometimes forget that poverty exists in many forms and often impacts our fellow neighbours, right in our own communities.
I was shocked to learn that child poverty in Toronto has reached “epidemic” levels with 29 per cent of children (nearly 149,000) living in low-income families.
And within the city, the disparity varies dramatically by neighborhood. In fact, data shows that child poverty levels are up to 50 per cent or more in the communities of Regent Park, Moss Park and Thorncliffe Park (which surrounds our Foresters Financial™ headquarters).
It’s hard to believe that on my daily commute to work that nearly half of the smiling, boisterous kids sharing the bus with me are struggling. Kids are resilient – this isn’t the face of poverty I’d expect.
But what isn’t surprising to me is that when there’s a need, Foresters is there to help.
So it made perfect sense to donate $25,000 to Moorelands Community Services, an amazing local organization that supports children and families living in the Foresters Financial-Thorncliffe Park community.
Moorelands Community Services is an independent, multi-cultural, multi-faith and multi-ethnic community service. Each year, Moorelands impacts more than 1,100 children and youth living in low-income, under-served Toronto neighbourhoods by offering fun programs and leadership opportunities designed to strengthen kids’ confidence, competence and character. It also helps them to build positive connections with peers and caring adults. To date, the organization has helped over 150,000 children and their families.
“71 per cent of families served by Moorelands have less than a $30,000 per year income,” explained Maureen Lewis, Director, Development & Communications at Moorelands. “The majority of our kids are between the ages of 6 to12 years old, and come from families where parents usually work multiple jobs to make ends meet.”
Foresters donation was allocated to Moorelands’ Building Leaders After School Teams (BLAST) program which runs for the entire school year and provides a healthy snack and a diverse range of fun, challenging activities like cooking, crafts, science experiments, reading, physical games and homework help. It starts right after school and goes until parents get home from work.
Not only is it a huge help to the parents who would otherwise struggle to find affordable childcare, but the program also teaches kids vital social skills – all perfectly disguised under the veil of fun and games. No wonder there’s a waiting list each semester!
“One of our goals is to teach young kids to become leaders,” said Maureen. “We play games to explore life skills and teach the kids concepts like respect, sharing, honesty and communication.”
But you don’t have to take Maureen’s word for it. The BLAST kids say it best!
“I learned that respect means being kind to each other.”
-Amna, age 9.
“I learned being honest is good because if you show honesty you can make more friends.”
-Ali, age 9.
“I learned respect means letting other people have a turn to talk.”
-Malik, age 7.
These lessons are priceless, but it costs Moorelands $18 per day to send a kid to BLAST. This means that the Foresters donation allowed 405 kids to participate in the program.
Not all organizations that write a cheque get the opportunity to learn about how their donation is making a real difference in the lives of the people they’re helping. Thanks to Maureen, it’s clear how Foresters helped to build a stronger community – one that we’re so proud to be a part of.
“Every day, is a chance to make one child’s life better,” says Maureen. “I get up in the morning knowing that if I do my job right, some of our most vulnerable kids are going to experience opportunities they just otherwise wouldn’t have had. By partnering with Foresters, I can see the impact we are making together – every day – in the faces of our kids.”
Read more feel-good stories from local communities:
 TheStar.com, August 27, 2014, retrieved from: http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2014/08/27/toronto_child_poverty_rate_at_epidemic_levels.html
413750 CAN (05/16)