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Backpack Venture: Back to school’s in the bag

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A pair of Port Stephens mums say their dream that every child in the Hunter region gets a great start to the 2022 school year is growing wings.

The duo are already well on their way to collecting 400 backpacks full of essential items that will give all kids the confidence to commence their annual learning.

As founders of the inaugural Backpack Venture, friends Catherine and Alison will distribute school bags filled with an array of items deemed necessary for kids in classrooms across the Upper Hunter.

Pencils, textas, sharpeners, erasers, rulers, handballs and other stationery are currently being collected at several shopping and community centres.

What the Seaham-based mums need now, they say, is the community to shop.

“Our vision is to gift as many school students as possible living in small rural towns in NSW a backpack full of resources to start the new school year,” says Catherine.

“Our goal is to make sure each child arrives at school on day one feeling confident and excited to start learning.

“If everyone who shops this January adds even just one extra item to their trolley, we’ll hopefully give these children a fair start.”

Motivated by her own impoverished childhood, Catherine says establishing the charity was a practical way to make a real difference. 

“I’m just a mum. I see kids that need things and I just want to help.

“My childhood would have benefited from this sort of thing. 

“I grew up in a low-socioeconomic area. I grew up with nothing myself, so I know how that feels.

“Having all of these items in a backpack, ready to go, on the first day of school, makes all the kids the same, and kids just want to be the same as others.

“They don’t want to highlight what they don’t have.”

The backpacks will be distributed to all students at rural schools in Jerrys Plains, Sandy Hollow, Broke and Denham.

Donations can be dropped into specially marked boxes at Maitland Riverside Plaza, Nova Air and Electrical, Sonia Hornery MP’s office, and Survivor’s R Us Incorporated.

Community members can also purchase using Click and Collect at some Big W and Kmart stores in the region.

“You don’t know someone’s background, you might never know why they’re struggling, but it’s never the kid’s fault and it’s unfair they have to start school feeling less confident.

“A lot of kids show up with nothing on their first day back at school, or they have limited items in a plastic shopping bag, I’ve seen it firsthand and it’s heartbreaking.”

The backpacks will be distributed by local NSW Police members in a bid to further encourage positive relationships within rural communities. 

Backpack Venture is also collecting Girl’s Emergency Kits which include a pencil case with sanitary items, deodorant and hand-sanitiser, as well underwear in a variety of sizes.

“This let’s girls feel prepared for their period,” Catherine says.

“The kits will be left in the school office and if they need to they can go and ask for a pencil case and it’s a discreet way to deal with an unexpected period.”

Donations are being accepted until 20 January.

A full list of donation drop-off locations can be found at: https://www.facebook.com/thebackpackventure

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