Deputy Prime Minister Paula Bennett was the guest of honour at an event put on by the School Start First Impressions group.
The Franklin organisation supports five year old children whose parents are in financial difficulty.
“We chose five year olds because they are starting school. It is an important time of transition,” Jane Thomas, founder of the project, says.
“We give them everything they need for the first year old school,” she says.
“We also give them things to help celebrate their birthday. It’s a rite of passage.”
After the child is referred to First Impressions, they put together a box of everything filled from school supplies and party materials to share with their family.
The pilot programme, which began nearly two years ago saw the team make 40 boxes for children around the area. In the last 18 months they have given more than 120 boxes to young five year olds.
“We do it because all children are special. We also do it because we love it,” Jane says.
“The purpose is to honour and celebrate the child.”
MP for Hunua, Andrew Bayly says, “It’s wonderful that this is taking place in Franklin. We’re keen for it to expand out of Franklin and into the wider Auckland region. It’s a fantastic concept that will continue.” Andrew Bayly says.
Deputy Prime Minsister, Paula Bennett acknowledged the work the organisation do. “It’s an indication of integrity.”
The children receive a birthday cake with their name on it, books, stationery, underwear and socks.
“We don’t choose the kids. The referral agencies, such as Plunket, Te Hononga Puna Reo, and Whanau Resource Centre provide us with the details of the children. Then forms are filled out with their name, size, number of siblings, and interests, so we can get things specific to them,” says Jane. “We have had a lot of Frozen and Spiderman themed boxes,” she says.
The boxes are packed with party plates, banners, and popcorn as well as other things to share.
“Sistema donated 150 lunch boxes and drink bottles, so they also get that, with a school bag.”
“It’s very practical,” Jane says. They also include a family game to play. “It puts the child in the centre for a moment. They can share with their family and celebrate their birthday.”
First Impressions also pay for the school donation, uniform, stationery and shoes, and include a present for the five year old.
“It’s a win-win-win,” Jane says. “We get the joy of putting the packages together, the referral agencies get to give the boxes to the children. They love getting it.”
Caption: Graeme Thomas, Jane Thomas, Deputy Prime Minister, Paula Bennett, Rae Blackwood, MP for Hunua, Andrew Bayly.