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By: Korie Marshall, Editor

Christmas can be a lot of fun, and many of us tend to go a bit overboard – whether with food, drink, spending or gift-giving. That makes it a good time to remind ourselves that there are many who don’t have as much.

I often hear people say that Christmas is for children, and I remember the excitement I felt as a child, and how much fun it can be to make sure Christmas is happy for kids. But it is a heart-breaking reality that there are some kids, even here in the Robson Valley, who don’t get enough to eat on a regular basis, and won’t know a lot of joy this season.

In small communities, we tend to think that a lot of the problems that affect the world don’t exist here, but they do. Poverty exists here. We have amazing organizations and volunteers that do many things to help people in the community, but there are still many needs, and many people that aren’t being reached.

One of our best tools to help people out of poverty is education. Priscilla Prosser, principal at the Valemount Elementary School, says that living in poverty is like a constant trauma for a child, and it affects how they learn, as well as so many other aspects of their lives. It is not a simple cycle to break.

This year is the 30th anniversary of some big music collaborations that were intended to raise money and awareness for famine victims in Africa – Band Aid’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” as well as North American versions that followed. One big thing I remember from efforts to help Africa back then, and from listening to rebroadcasts of interviews, is that it wasn’t a situation that would be solved by throwing food at it – there are much deeper issues. But food does matter. And I know myself – it is hard to learn when you are hungry.

Good food programs are a great start, and not just for kids from needy families. We sometimes can’t tell who needs it most, and there are many reasons why a kid might go to school hungry. Prosser says the elementary Parent Advisory Committee (PAC) is still looking for volunteers (and you have to be a parent to be on the committee) because without a PAC, the school can’t get funding for food programs.

There is a need at the high school level too – there is a breakfast program at McBride Secondary, and staff at Valemount Secondary is trying to get funding from the Breakfast Club of Canada to start a hot breakfast program. One of their stipulations is that it is available to all kids, and I think that is a great thing, because it doesn’t single people out. It is not just about feeding hungry kids – it is also about teaching kids how to eat properly and giving all kids a safe environment to learn in.

We heard a lot during the teacher strike about all the extra stuff that teachers do, and I have heard a lot of stories of the extra things that teachers and staff do, often spending their own money to help some of their students. The strike helped raise awareness of some of the issues facing our teachers – and our students. The fact that they are helping feed our kids is one more thing we should be aware of, and we should do everything we can to help. I don’t mean just giving people food, but giving kids a safe, warm, inviting environment that will help them learn and make good decisions.

I hope everyone has a great Christmas, and if you are the type of person that makes New Year’s Resolutions, I hope one of the things you put on your list is to be more aware of the needs of local families.