About three weeks ago, I saw some tweets from a teacher I follow on Twitter. She works in a primary school in a far-from-affluent town about twenty miles from here, in, funnily enough, the same place where my own father grew up.
Children shouldn’t be hungry and they shouldn’t be cold. That they are, in this country, in 2013, is a disgrace.
This isn’t a rant about the causes and the culprits. Not a rage at the existence and growing need for food banks, and all the other deprivation that entails. It’s just a small idea, about how to help children who are victims of policy and circumstance.
After the Twitter exchange, I went online to see if there was a local collection facility for children’s clothes. There wasn’t, though I know of places which take toys and baby equipment. A few phone calls later, though, I’d established that the food bank in town was often asked if they had winter clothing, and that they could easily distribute any they were given.
I spoke to my children’s school, who said that they’d distribute flyers to all classes if I produced and printed them, and that I could collect on school premises.
So I did. I spent half an hour making and printing small, simple flyers at home. I set a collection date ten days hence. On the morning, we went to school in the car and – after a disheartening start where I thought nothing would happen – I ended up with twelve large bags of coats, wellies and woollies. It took probably a couple of hours, max.
It’s far from ideal. It isn’t enough. It isn’t a substitute for any other giving or campaigning. But it’s taken a couple of dozen outgrown winter things, languishing in wardrobes for a time on eBay which may never come, or a hand-me-down which will be forgotten till the recipient is too big, and it’s put them on the backs and feet of children under our noses but too often out of our sight.
It would be wonderful if the same thing happened elsewhere, on small scales, where there isn’t – yet – an infrastructure to pair supply with need.