Breakfast program at Surrey schools changing lives in vulnerable areas

Community-Schools Partnership provides support to children and their families who may be vulnerable.

Adam and outreach worker Jetho Kambere beam during Surrey’s school district’s breakfast program.

Students buzz about a Bear Creek Elementary classroom as the aroma of French toast fills the air.

It’s 7:45 a.m., and school doesn’t start for another 45 minutes, but a couple dozen kids are starting their day a bit earlier than the rest.

A few young boys shoot basketballs at a hoop hooked on a cabinet door, other youngsters sit at desks and play, and laughter abounds.

These children are taking part in a breakfast program the Surrey school district offers at more than 20 schools in neighbourhoods that show high levels of vulnerability.

Outreach worker Jethro Kambere’s day starts even earlier than the children’s.

He often begins his mornings with a “walking school bus,” knocking on the front doors of some of these children to get them out of bed. Together, they make the jaunt to school and have breakfast.

It’s all in an effort to get kids who are chronically absent, or tardy, to school.

“It starts in Kindergarten. We want to break the trend right away before it becomes a pattern,” said Kambere.

Attending school is step one, he said: “You don’t want kids to develop trends they’re going to carry with them their whole life. I want them to understand what’s important to them. It’s important to have a healthy meal, it’s important to be physically active, it’s important to learn.”

The program is part of the Community-Schools Partnership, established in 2007 to provide support to children and their families who may be vulnerable.

And in Surrey, the numbers are high. According to the Surrey Poverty Reduction Coalition, Surrey has the most poverty-stricken neighbourhoods in the region.

It’s a stark reality, but one not specific to Surrey. Last year’s 2015 BC Child Poverty Report Card revealed one in five children in the province lives in poverty.

At the Newton elementary school, Kambere typically handles about 15 cases. On his radar, currently, are brother and sister Chelsea, 11, and Adam, 10, (names changed for privacy reasons).

“Adam was coming late everyday before,” said Kambere.

The youngster would act up in class, wouldn’t listen, or he was outright unresponsive.

Today he’s eager to learn.

“He asked him mom to buy him a dictionary,” Kambere said. “He’s asked me to make him a multiplication chart. He’s started to understand that school is important.”

It’s been refreshing to see Adam’s attitude change, he said.

“One day, it was so bizarre, he got his hair cut, side parted, shirt buttoned up, tucked in, he looked like he was ready for work,” Kambere said proudly. “It was almost symbolic of the change that he’s made.”

Mom Dolores (name also changed) agreed.

“Adam’s been having trouble getting up and getting going. He’s struggling, emotionally, without any kind of a male figure around,” said Dolores.

But Kambere’s influence has changed Adam. Usually hard to get going for the day, Adam jumps out of bed when Kambere comes knocking.

“It’s kind of beyond school. It’s a connection,” Dolores said of the program. “I just think it offers that extra element that some parents just don’t have available to them.”

Being a single mom to three kids, that support is appreciated.

“It’s really helped them, bring up their confidence,” she said. “Whether I’m working morning shifts or after-school shifts, I know they’re able to get up and get to school on time and get breakfast.”

The Surrey mother is particularly thankful to have after-school support through another district program, which offers help with homework and even outings to places such as Science World and Extreme Air.

“Before, it was my oldest (a 16-year-old) kind of watching them from kind of right after school until about 9 sometimes,” said Dolores. “Knowing they’re getting help with homework, maybe getting a snack, maybe going places… They have opportunities outside of what I would ever be able to give them.

“The system itself is not perfect. I believe that there are so many gaps, and I think this helps fill a bit of that gap.”

Just Posted

Surrey’s Amazing Tutors donates hundreds of ‘Sunshine Food Bags’ to those less fortunate

For three years, volunteers and students have been putting together donation packages

Delta supports proposed Health Canada regulations for cannabis edibles

Regulations focus on standardizing THC content, making sure edibles aren’t appealing to youth

Junior Team Canada brings home gold to the Lower Mainland, again

In a 9-4 victory over Switzerland, a Langley-based curling team earned its 2nd straight world title

Surrey-Langley curlers in the running again for gold

Junior men’s team out of Langley hopes to defend its world title Sunday, going up against Switzerland

VIDEO: Iconic ‘snow cone’ takes shape at B.C. park near Clearwater

Snow cone forming at Wells Gray Provincial Park one that would make Disney’s Queen Elsa proud

A ‘warm embrace’ for grieving parents at funeral of seven young fire victims

Mourners offered love and support to Kawthar Barho, mother of seven children

Indigenous leaders, politicians say Trans Mountain report flawed

The National Energy Board has endorsed an expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline a second time

UPDATE: Reports of rashes prompt closure of all Harrison Hot Springs pools

Public pool available after Fraser Health shut down all five mineral pools until further notice

Legislation to protect B.C. farmland comes into effect

Regulations enhance food security, encourage long-term farming

Have you heard the legend of Shuswaggi, the Shuswap Lake monster?

Witness accounts as old as 1904, and as recent as 2018, place a creature in the lake’s depths

UPDATE: B.C. ticket holder winner of $25.9-million Lotto Max jackpot

Next draw set for Mar. 1 with an estimated jackpot of $10 million

B.C. weavers to help Alaska Native project honouring survivors of violence

Dozens of Chilkat and Ravenstail weavers from all over North America will be weaving 5-inch-by-5-inch squares

B.C. skip Sarah Wark and team eliminated at Scotties Tournament of Hearts

Nontheless pretty impressive stuff from the 24th-ranked team in the country

Most Read