16 January 2024

Women Illawarra needs your help to get kids back to school

| Zoe Cartwright
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Volunteers at Women Illawarra are busily putting together backpacks to help ease the financial strain on vulnerable families.

Volunteers at Women Illawarra are busily putting together backpacks to help ease the financial strain on vulnerable families. Photo: Michelle Glasgow.

Christmas, school holidays and a new school year – plenty of families feel the pinch in January, and to help alleviate the pressure, Women Illawarra is running its third annual back-to-school drive.

The group says necessary supplies such as textbooks, schoolbags, drink bottles and stationery will cost Australian parents, on average, $684 for primary school kids and $1132 for high schoolers this year, before tuition, uniforms, transport, excursions, tech and lunches are factored in.

Michelle Glasgow, from Women Illawarra, said the not-for-profit welcomed any contributions from the community.

“We put together backpacks with a lunchbox, drink bottles, and a $20 voucher for school supplies and give them to vulnerable families in our community,” she said.

“We’re here to serve anyone who needs a bit of support, whether they’re experiencing domestic violence or a single mum trying to make ends meet.”

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Michelle said this year the cost-of-living crisis meant more families than ever needed help.

“In December we had a really generous donation from a financial group in Sydney, and they asked us to allocate it to bill relief; in five days it had been allocated,” she said.

“About 60 per cent went to help families with energy bills, another 20 per cent went to help with housing costs and the rest was school fees and phone bills, things like that.

“A lot of us have had to tighten our belts around discretionary spending over the past year, but some families don’t have that discretionary spending to begin with.”

Michelle said Women Illawarra gave out 20 food hampers over Christmas, and over the past 18 months had distributed more than 100 food relief packages from Food for Life.

Many of those packages went to women who had not previously engaged with the charity.

“As a mum I know we do the best we can to support our families; we don’t ask for help, so if women come to us, they need it,” she said.

“Thanks to the generosity of the beautiful community we live in we have been able to offer this relief, but we’re a really small not-for-profit and without the community’s support we wouldn’t be able to do it.”

If you’re able to support the Women Illawarra’s back-to-school appeal, donations can be dropped off to the Women’s Centre at 170 Corrimal Street, Wollongong, or for more information email [email protected].

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If you’re not able to give at the moment, but would like to contribute later in the year, keep an eye out.

Michelle said there were plenty of initiatives on the horizon, and donations didn’t need to be financial.

“If you can assist at events, in the garden, with child minding or if you have a specific set of skills, there are heaps of opportunities to support us that way,” Michelle said.

“We’ve got lots of big plans for this year; I’m really proud we have a program for women aged 55 and over who may be experiencing homelessness due to domestic violence.

“We’re also offering mental health first aid courses, with discounts and scholarships available and a walk and talk program to support mental health.

“On National Women’s Day 8 March we will march, and it will be the 45th anniversary of our organisation. That’s 45 years of activism, feminism and local advocacy for women.”

To get involved, head to www.womenillawarra.org.au

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