The Children We Help

By Dr. Nina Halpern, Board Member SCLCFC

I want you to think about a child in a very poor village in rural inland China, whose parents are far away, working in a coastal city. The child’s elderly grandparents struggle to look after him as best they can. He attends a rundown school, taught by an uninspiring teacher with no real training. The school has no resources, hardly even any books. He misses his parents and feels that he has no real future.

Now I want you to think about a different child, one who travelled with her parents to that coastal city. Because her parents don’t have a residence permit, she can only attend a very inferior privately funded school. Outside of school, while her parents work very long hours, she is left to cope on her own with an unfamiliar and not particularly friendly environment. She too loses confidence in herself and hope for the future.>

Now picture an immigrant child in Vancouver, whose parents speak little English and who also work long hours to make it in their new country. This child attends a school in one of the poorest neighborhoods in Vancouver, and indeed in all of Canada. Also left to his own devices after school, this child risks being drawn into gang life, or simply falling through the cracks at school and becoming isolated and withdrawn.  

Or imagine a First Nations child in the same type of neighborhood. Due to the legacy of trauma and cultural disruption, that child’s parents are unable to provide the secure homelife and support that child needs to successfully navigate at school and outside of school. The child is simply unable to hold it together and constantly experiences meltdowns at school. Always in trouble, the child starts to feel that she would be better off not attending school at all.


What do all these children have in common?

None of them are having their needs met by the existing school system or social programs, yet all of them have the potential to thrive, if offered the support and programs which teach them to care about themselves and others, and set them on the path to becoming confident and productive members of society.

And those are exactly the types of programs which the SCLCFC looks for, and supports.  We search out those unmet needs and gaps in existing services, and seek out partners who have proven or innovative ways of helping the children.


Programs in China

In China, we partner with a Shanghai-based nonprofit group called Sunrise Library. Together, we have established a library and a reading program in one of those poor rural schools where almost half the children are “left-behind,” while their parents work in the urban areas. 200 elementary school children in that school are now reading up to 24 books a year, taught by a teacher who is specially trained to cultivate their love of reading and to enhance their critical thinking skills. Teachers have observed that the students have a new sense of confidence and motivation. But they wish they could expand the program to meet the needs of even more children.

For the children living in the coastal area of Shenzhen, with their hard-working migrant parents, we partner with an NGO named Ciwei to provide them with an out-of-school choir and music program, along with self-improvement classes and organized field-trips and volunteer opportunities that build their self-esteem, confidence, and sense of belonging.

Programs in Canada

Here at home, in Vancouver, we have supported art therapy, physical literacy training, and heart-mind programs for Syrian Refugee children, through the Little Mountain Neighbourhood House.

For a number of years, we have made possible the provision of after-school programs called “Kids First” at Xpey’ elementary school—formerly known as MacDonald School. This is a designated Aboriginal school, and the after-school programs we sponsor are provided free of charge for children who have been identified as struggling and needing additional support. The program provides a safe space for children in the afterschool hours, where along with support for completing homework they have opportunities to engage in sports, crafts, wood work, and field trips. The payoff has been seen in terms of the children’s greater engagement with the school, improved ability to cope and regulate during the day, and their increased interest in learning.

For older students, we support the “Brite-8” program at Britannia Secondary school, a small school with a diverse student population, many identified as vulnerable or at risk. When the children from schools like Xpey and other Elementary schools in inner city Vancouver enter 8th grade and begin the transition to high-school, they often flounder. They have gone from a relatively small school to a much larger one, where they are expected to be able to navigate much more independently. In the past, many struggled with that transition with the result seen in high levels of absenteeism, disciplinary problems, and in many cases an eventual  failure to go on to complete high school. The “Brite 8” program is a year-long integrated program which allows older students to mentor these new 8th graders, building a sense of community, belonging, and engagement with the school in positive ways while engaging in fun activities. The results have been seen in decreased absenteeism and increased volunteerism among the 8th graders who participated, and a much more successful transition to high-school.

For a small group of 8-10th grade students who cannot succeed in the regular school system, even with the help of programs like Brite 8, we support an alternative program called Streetfront, which also operates out of Britannia Secondary. For the marginalized youth in this program who have been struggling academically, socially, and personally, the SCL Foundation has made possible the addition of an art therapy program to their already proven successful focus on physical fitness as the catalyst to reengage and inspire these struggling young people.

These are just some of the programs which we currently support. Although we are encouraged by the results of the programs we are funding and the changes they have produced in the lives of the children they help, unfortunately, there are many more children who have not yet been able to access these types of programs because of the limits of our funding. And we are always identifying other unmet needs and children who are struggling.

This year we are excited to be adding 2 new programs, both located at the Tupper Community Schools Hub in midtown Vancouver, which also has a large immigrant population. These are a Boy’s Club for some 8-10th grade boys who have been identified as at risk of failing, and an expanded Cooking and Nutrition program which has proven very successful in helping students develop life skills and self-confidence, but currently has long waiting lists.


All of the funds raised at this dinner will go to finance programs like these, and some new ones which provide similar support for children who just need some extra help to succeed. If you want to learn more about these programs, I encourage you to visit our website.

Thank you for attending this dinner and for your generous support for the work that the Foundation is doing. Together, we can make a huge difference in the lives of needy and vulnerable children, which really will change the future not just for them, but for all of us.