Most parents find the start of the school year a trying and expensive time. Each child needs to be equipped with a school uniform, books, stationery, lunch boxes, water bottles, sports gear and shoes, and for some families on a low income, the economic stress of having to kit out several children impacts significantly on the household budget. Lee-Anne Michelle at the Clutha Budget Advisory Service is very aware of the pressure this puts on people as she works to mentor and support them through times of financial stress.
“We wanted to help in a practical way,” says Lee-Anne, who has worked for the Service since 2005, “And so we settled on the idea of school shoes. Everyone needs shoes and, unlike adults, kids keep growing and so need replacement shoes at least every year. They are also much tougher on their shoes than adults, which makes it harder to hand them down to the next in line, the way you can with other items of clothing.” Lee-Anne was also aware that children without suitable shoes were sometimes not going to school, out of embarrassment, even though many schools are sympathetic to the difficulties some families face. So the Happy Feet project was born.
Lee-Anne approached the Clutha Foundation in 2020 for funding to run a trial project. We were very happy to do so. The back to school period (January 2021) was a very busy time for Lee-Anne. Referrals from schools and community agencies identified families in need of support, and to date the Happy Feet project has sent 40 children to school with good quality school shoes. We are very pleased to be able to support the project again in 2021, along with the Rotary Club of Balclutha.