NANAIMO — Before she started her own Vancouver media company, Renu Bakshi was a CTV reporter, so it’s no wonder that when she decided to help impoverished children here at Brechin Elementary she would come and see for herself.
The float-plane ride from Vancouver to Nanaimo only takes 20 minutes, but what Bakshi found once she arrived was disturbing.
“I can’t think of a bigger crisis in Canada than hungry children,” she said after meeting with principal Kim Hart. “This is a school that 52 children out of 200 come to school hungry, and some families don’t have enough food at the weekend.
“One student lives in a car, others live in motels. It’s imperative we pull together as a community to end child hunger. This is a real crisis.”
Hart had asked the Vancouver Sun’s Adopt-A-School campaign for $6,000 for grocery cards so some families could be provided with food over the weekend. (The school’s application posted along with others at vansunkidsfund.ca had caught Bakshi’s attention.)
Hart said there were times when a number of the families had no money and no food.
Also, some of the children needed underwear, socks, toques, gloves and other clothing, and she wanted to be able to buy them.
Bakshi, whose company provides media training and crisis management, has picked up the tab.
“I’ll donate to the school as long as I’m earning money,” she said.
Not only that, but she has changed her will and is leaving a third of her estate to the Vancouver Sun Children’s Fund, which administers the Adopt-A-School program.
“That’s how important it is to me,” she said. “I was redrafting my will and it forced me to think where my resources would provide the most value. I would encourage others to do the same.”
When she visited the school, Bakshi met with parents and volunteers busily putting weekend food parcels together.
“I’m so grateful the students and parents were open to meeting me. Everyone is trying hard to make ends meet, everyone has a story, everyone deserves validation. If we humanize people’s struggles and create connections, the world becomes a kinder place,” she said.
Bakshi’s family were immigrants from India and she remembers hard times as a child when there was “no food and no heat” at home.
“But my parents somehow found enough to share with others. My parents set a great example. My father (Sudarshan) received the Order of British Columbia for his tireless work in the community.”
Her mother, Rani, died of cancer some years ago.
“She will be forever remembered because of her empathy. She shared love and kindness freely and passionately. Any contribution I make to Adopt-A-School will always be in my mom’s honour.”
This year, requests totalling almost $1 million have been received by Adopt-A-School from dozens of schools attempting to deal with problems caused by poverty. This results in thousands of children coming to school hungry every day and with little or nothing for lunch, or in need of proper clothing.
The money is needed to buy breakfast or lunch for these children, and to provide them with clothing or emergency food vouchers to get their families through the weekend.