The Smith Family team leader Kayleen Geyer and Learning for Life program coordinator Ashni Gopicherran.
The Smith Family team leader Kayleen Geyer and Learning for Life program coordinator Ashni Gopicherran.

Ipswich kids battle for basics to start school

MORE than 600 Ipswich school students are relying on financial backing from a children’s charity in order to afford the basics to start off the new school year.

The Smith Family provides scholarships for more than 50,000 kids across Australia through its Learning for Life program to buy books, uniforms and supplies.

The charity’s “flagship” program also connects families to other support services and local educational opportunities.

Kayleen Geyer, who is team leader for Ipswich, Logan, Inala and Mackay, said the economic impacts of COVID-19 have placed an added strain on battling families already struggling.

She has been based in Ipswich for 13 years.

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The charity partners with eight local schools to identify those children most in need.

With the first day of term one just around the corner on Wednesday, the Smith Family is financially supporting 642 Ipswich students.

“The economy at the moment is not so good and for these families who are already in poverty or disadvantaged, (COVID-19) has just added to the burden,” Mrs Geyer said.

“The Smith Family sponsors 57,000 students nationally.

“The impact with COVID-19 has added to all that.

“Even the families who are the most conservative in their approach to buying things, (a new school year) puts them behind the eight-ball.

“No parent wants their kid to be left behind. To start the year properly is a really good start for them.”

Mrs Geyer said Ipswich in particular had big “digital divide” which became evident when students had to learn from home during the height of the pandemic.

They provided computers and internet packages.

“When some families were meant to go home and work on computers, they didn’t have them,” she said.

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“We gave out many computers. There’s still many, many more needed.”

As the fastest growing region in Queensland, there is only going to be more demand for the crucial work the Smith Family does in Ipswich in the coming years.

The charity does not yet cover booming Springfield.

“We’ve already stretched our target to 640 (in Ipswich),” Mrs Geyer said.

“We’re getting referrals from schools all the time wanting to send students to us for our support.

“We’re full to the brim. If a family rings we can support them by referring them to other agencies.

“We sincerely believe education is power. It’s all about kids attending school.”

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