Poverty awareness is such an important topic and sensitive; however, there is of great importance in knowledge.
Undoubtedly the last few years since Covid-19 began it has caused even more stress for Canadians.
People had to change employment, work virtually, or businesses closed and lost jobs.
Either way, I believe poverty awareness has heightened for Canadians and will continue to do so.
Today, I want to explore poverty awareness and why teaching children about poverty is essential.
Over the past two weeks, I’ve watched poverty awareness documentaries on YouTube.
One specific documentary caught the attention of our almost eight-year-old son, who has ADD.
The documentary, Lives of Poor Kids In America, where housing poverty and food poverty are exposed, is sad.
I often ask what I can do to help without stepping over boundaries.
Teaching Poverty Awareness
The great thing about our son is that he loves learning about topics you wouldn’t expect for his age.
For example, he enjoys exploring how doctors perform surgery to save lives and understand death.
Some might find that creepy, although, for us, he’s a kid who wants to learn about helping others.
As parents, we know that when we can capture his focus on something meaningful to him, it’s essential.
With his ADHD and Autism, it’s hard for him to stay focused on one topic for more than 20 minutes.
When he does show interest, this is where we dive in with him to answer any questions he has.
As parents, we don’t know all the answers to help fight poverty but feel we have to educate.
Why Is Poverty Awareness Important?
Poverty awareness is critical worldwide because it’s real and could happen to anyone.
For one, generational poverty either happens or doesn’t based on the path one takes.
Generational poverty is when poor people don’t break the cycle, which continues from generation to generation.
Imagine a world free of financial judgement and filled with kindness.
Poor Kids Get Bullied At School
With poverty awareness, whether in the schools or in parenting, today’s children can make a difference.
Nobody wants to be poor, wondering whether they will be left homeless or struggling for food.
In the documentary Lives Of Poor Kids in America, a young man says that he gets cereal or milk but not both.
33.3% of food bank users are children while representing only 19.1% of the population
Single adult households represent 46.1% of households accessing food banks, while representing only 28.2% of the population
Those receiving provincial social assistance as their main source of income support represent 50.5% of households accessing food banksHungerCount Data Food Banks 2021 Canada
With over 4500 food banks in Canada, they aim to ensure no one goes hungry.
That massive undertaking couldn’t be possible without volunteers, donations and sponsors.
Food insecurity is only part of poverty awareness as I feel it should encompass health, income, housing and education.
At least the stepping stones to the necessities of life with resources to help those who need them.
Read the Canada Food Bank 2021 Hunger Report
Children Who Live Through Poverty
It was heartbreaking to hear that and see the look on that young man’s face.
Another boy said he doesn’t want kids at his school to know he lives in a shelter.
Being made fun of by peers about poverty is a BIG deal and why poverty awareness is essential.
Children may retreat into their world at school, play alone, and fear getting laughed at by rich kids.
The child above describes how Mrs. CBB was at school from junior kindergarten to grade eight.
Lack of socialization with peers left her broken inside because no one cared.
Her parents were so busy working or cleaning that they didn’t have time to make time for her.
She will tell you this is why she started working at a fast-food restaurant at 13 years old.
Working and fitness became an obsession because she was in control of her life.
She could buy what she wanted, save money and get fit without needing any friends or family.
Dust If You Must
I read the poem Dust If You Must by Rose Milligan and wanted to share it with all of you.
Forget about the obsession with cleaning for the arrival of the Queen every day and making time for family.
Dust If You Must Dust if you must, but wouldn’t it be better
To paint a picture or write a letter,
Bake a cake, or plant a seed;
Ponder the difference between want and need?
Dust if you must, but there’s not much time,
With rivers to swim and mountains to climb;
Music to hear and books to read;
Friends to cherish, and life to lead.
Dust if you must, but the world’s out there.
With the sun in your eyes and the wind in your hair;
A flutter of snow, a shower of rain,
This day will not come around again.
Dust if you must, but bear in mind,
Old age will come, and it’s not kind.
And when you go (and go you must)
You, yourself, will make more dust.
Children Living In Poverty May Feel Different
Without socialization, a child might think something is peculiar about them and not understand why their life is different.
I’ve done my fair share of volunteering at our son’s public school to know the children in his classes.
Whether it be at lunchtime and a student has no lunch to not having enough money to buy a slice of pizza on pizza day.
There are young children who come to school not dressed for the season, perhaps missing gloves, a hat, a warm jacket or snow pants.
Thankfully the school has a lost and found with extra clothing, apples and snacks in the front office and leftover pizza in the freezer.
Schools Collecting Food For The Food Bank
Walking into the foyer immediately, guests to the school will see a donation box for canned goods and non-perishables for the food bank.
When I asked our son about what that box was for, he told us it was food we donate to the poor.
Secretly I already knew but wanted to hear what he had to say about it.
Although he knew who the food was for, we questioned whether he understood what it meant.
He doesn’t because he hasn’t lived through poverty; hopefully, he never does.
We want our son to understand how important it is to help others in need and the true meaning of giving.
The school hosts a local free bread campaign twice a month for anyone in need, no questions asked.
There are other clothing and food options in the community; however, the hardest part is transportation.
Most of all, children talk about their lives with people they trust and both Mrs. CBB, and I have heard our fair share of stories.
For example, a girl in senior kindergarten would come to school with a winter jacket that was always open.
She told us that the zipper broke and her mother didn’t have enough money to fix it or buy a new jacket.
Although we wanted to pay the $5 it would cost for a new zipper, we didn’t want to step over boundaries.
Poverty Awareness For All Children
I feel that poverty awareness for all children is essential, primarily through the education system.
At the same time, I also feel that educators and parents must motivate their children for the future.
I’m not sure what to call that, but it leans more towards exploring what you love to do and turning it into a passion.
When children dream of becoming a nurse, doctor, business owner, or something wonderful and wacky, let them explore.
There are jobs all over our country that desperately need to be filled by qualified candidates.
I’ve heard from parents who said they couldn’t afford to send their children to college or university.
That’s ok because most parents can’t support their children through higher education.
Grants, scholarships and school loans are available for those who want to fulfill their educational dream.
As parents, we need to help guide our children to find the resources because not all kids know where to begin.
And when that happens, they slip through the system and opt to work instead of following their dream.
Related: Why a good job doesn’t solve poverty
Poverty Questions From Our Son
Below are some questions our son asked me while watching Lives of Poor Kids.
We didn’t watch the entire documentary in one go because he couldn’t focus for long.
Instead, we watched a portion of it each day, and if he had any questions along the way, he was to ask.
Before I share the questions, I want to tell you a little background about our son.
You already know he has mild Autism, and we have spent more money than we would otherwise on him for this purpose.
Over the years, before we had a diagnosis, we would go to Goodwill or other secondhand shops and get whatever he was interested in.
The reason we did this was that we wanted him to have the ability to explore things that intrigued him.
We also wanted him to understand recycling and that buying used items is not just for poor people.
The stigma of going into a secondhand shop is crazy and doesn’t measure anything more than assumption.
In other words, who cares where people shop or how much money they have saved?
When we finish with toys and games, we donate them to the school and friends or sell them.
One day he asked us why we wanted to bring his toys to school, and we said so other children could learn from them.
He replied, “oh.”
We’ve always instilled the value of earning and saving money with our son.
He has a savings account with Simplii Financial, a coins jar and a briefcase where he keeps some cash and gift cards.
You might laugh at the briefcase, but he values it and ensures it’s hidden well.
Guess where he bought the briefcase? You got it, secondhand, and it doubles as a chess board.
We’ve even put his briefcase in our fireproof safe at his request.
Why Am I Lucky?
Recently he asked us why some of my friends told him he’s lucky he gets new toys.
First, he doesn’t get as much as you’d think; however, he does earn money for doing chores.
Teaching him the basics of life is very important and something that will take him far longer than a neurotypical child.
Using a timer and incentives helps to encourage and motivate him; however, he has his rough moments.
As for his question about the toys, we explained that many toys we buy are to help him with his Autism and sensory processing disorder.
We also explained to him that not all parents could afford to buy toys for their children because it’s not in their budget.
For example, the OSMO system we purchased on Amazon is well over $100 and is an educational tool he enjoys playing.
Does he know what a budget is? Well, kind of, but he has asked why we always get a receipt when we buy something.
Seven-Year-Old Boy Has Questions About Poverty
While watching the documentary, he asked me three more questions than I had expected.
I feel the documentary captured poverty awareness which is what is the intention.
- Why does that girl have to move to another house?
- How come the girls are collecting cans? Are we poor too?
- Why is her mommy not giving her food when she says she’s hungry?
Although there are many children in the documentary, he became intrigued by the first little girl.
She is not shy and quickly communicates her feelings and what life is like being poor.
It’s heartbreaking; however, bringing poverty awareness to all children is vital.
When our son doesn’t finish his food and asks us why he has to eat it the next day, now he knows why.
Beer Cans For Cash
Although we are financially comfortable, we still pick up beer cans as we’ve done for years.
You’ll notice he asked if we were poor too, just because we collect beer cans too.
My response was simple; we are collecting cans to clean up the garbage on the ground.
We take the beer cans once a year to exchange money and buy groceries to donate to the food bank.
He knows beer cans are worth money as he’s been with me as I return them to the beer store.
Everyone Needs To Eat Food
His last question about why her mom can’t get food because she is starving is that she has no money.
Although she works as a hairstylist, it’s not enough money to sustain her basic needs and pay the rent.
In the documentary, the family waits for their grandmother to come around with food.
To get rid of the hunger, the little girl says that she goes outside to play, and eventually, the pain disappears.
That hit me deep to hear a little girl sharing how she gets rid of her hunger pangs.
Moving To A Housing Estate
Eventually, the family moved from their house rental to a one-bed housing estate.
Before moving, they had to bring the family dog to the US Humane Society because they could no longer afford him.
Once they moved in, the mother was disturbed that there was no microwave which is a big deal for meal time.
Perhaps they needed a microwave to warm food while she was at work or cooking a family meal.
There was also no refrigerator/freezer, so the mother had to buy ice each day to keep the food fresh.
We ended the documentary at this point and will get to another chapter in the coming week.
Poverty Awareness Exposure In Canada
Exposing children early to poverty awareness in Canada may help them understand what being poor means and help prevent bullying through education.
When children focus on friendship rather than the clothes they wear, the food they eat, and where they live, our world will be better.
Being kind is a message that all parents should instill in their children.
Overall, I’m still new to poverty that lurks behind closed doors and on the streets.
Without a job or having a part-time job, a full-time job yet are house poor is why poverty awareness and financial education are critical.
There is no right or wrong age to learn poverty awareness, and we chose to teach our son young.
Money doesn’t define anyone; being kind and helping others in need is something we can all do.
Lives of Poor Kids In America Documentary Real Stories
I hope you watch this documentary and share your feelings or personal experiences for others to read.
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