In the Cove loves to feature Lane Cove Locals who are a making a difference, today it is our pleasure to tell you all about a programme called Got a Pen, which has been put together by a Lane Cove local (and a very very very early liker of ITC). Natalie Panzarino and her friend Lauren have created Got a Pen, the goal is to distribute stationery to children who don’t have basic stationery supplies for school every day.
There really is no such thing as free education in Australia. Parents have to pay for uniforms, books, stationery, school camps, reference materials and other associated costs. The financial burden on families is really hitting home now that the Federal Government has abolished the SchoolKids bonus. With this in mind, the Got a Pen programme is a simple but incredibly helpful way to ease some of the burden on families.
Who Came Up With the Idea of Got a Pen?
I am a school teacher and I came up with the idea after complaining to friends about some mundane, day-to-day type stuff as we all do, and after a while I reminded myself that on that very day at work I had given a pen to a kid who literally didn’t have one. That put my whinging into perspective.
My friends were pretty shocked that I had to give a kid a pen. When I told them that it happens quite often they all got together and gave me a whole bunch of supplies to pass on to the kids that I teach, and I thought to myself that we could really do something about this!
I started collecting supplies in an ad hoc way and with the help of local charitable group “Helping Hands” and I put together kits to distribute to the students that I teach. I found that I had more than enough to cover my school so I contacted other schools and spoke with their Welfare coordinators, delivering kits for distribution. A friend of mine mentioned that she was looking for some way to contribute to the community but many volunteer positions wouldn’t allow her to bring her young baby. I mentioned that I would like to expand on my little project so we got together to coordinate “Got A Pen?”.
Have you heard of incidents of children who do not have stationery supplies?
It happens surprisingly often, working as a teacher I came across it on a daily basis. Many more families than we would like to believe are living hand to mouth in Sydney and often times there are other priorities that come first; food on the table, electricity bills, clothing etc. While most parents work hard to provide for their kids the sad reality is that some kids go without necessities. Recent studies have shown that up to one in seven kids in Sydney are living in poverty. This seriously impacts on a child’s ability to participate fully in their learning, and not having stationery gives them one more thing to worry about. Something as simple as a pen could make a huge difference in a child’s life and that is something that we can so easily provide.
Could this also apply to indigenous and refugee communities?
The Public Education system caters to many Indigenous and refugee families; in fact, many of our kits have already gone to Indigenous and refugee students.
How do you decide which school needs the stationery supplies?
It started close to home, in the school where I work, and then when I had more than was needed there I approached other schools in the Western Sydney area. The approach we are taking is to make contact with the Welfare coordinators in schools to see whether they feel that they have students who could benefit from basic supplies, and from there trying to fill demand as best we can.
An ultimate goal would be to expand outside of Sydney and across Australia, but being that we are two mums trying to do what we can to make a difference we will just see where this takes us. From our perspective; we might not be able to make a difference to every kid but to each kid we reach, it makes a difference.
Uniforms are expensive – could the idea be expanded?
The reason that we chose to focus on stationery is that it is something that is often overlooked. There are many large charities that provide assistance with uniforms and clothing, and also most schools have a budget to allow them to help in that area. Stationery is something that is often dismissed because people see it as a cheap thing that everyone can get easily, but the reality is that it can’t always be a priority for some families. We figure that for many people it will be a small contribution to add a few extra items to their back to school shopping for “Got A Pen?”. For the kid who doesn’t have a pen to do their school work with, it is a big deal.
What items are you after?
We are currently accepting donations of (new, not used):
*Rulers (15cm preferred)
They will also accept donations of other items such as geometry sets and calculators, colour pencils and textas, and other basic stationery needs.
Their facebook page www.facebook.com/haveyougotapen has lots on what we are currently accepting and updates on which items we need the most, please like the page for the latest updates.
You can donate in 1 of 3 ways:
- Drop off items at one of our drop off points across Sydney. See their Facebook for details
- Send a gift card for a stationery retailer, or place an online order and have it delivered to our postal address; 29 Finlayson St, Lane Cove NSW 2066
- Purchase items directly from Select Office National, who will ship the items straight to us.
The good news is that the fabulous Andrew from MBE Lane Cove has agreed to act as a drop of point in Lane Cove. MBE is located at the back of the Laughing Ganeesha Arcade and faces Rosenthal Avenue Arcade.
MBE Lane Cove
Shop 8, 79-83 Longueville Rd,
Lane Cove NSW 2066
PH: 02) 9418 8450
How Can Someone in Lane Cove help?
Next time you are shopping, drop by the stationery aisle and throw in a packet of pens. Now that it is back to school time, there are sales on pens and pencils in Woolworths and Coles.
Become a Street Co-Ordinator
Put this flyer in your neighbour’s letter box and ask them to drop off to you some supplies. You can then take them to the drop off point. Just insert your name and contact details under the drop off point area.
Download the Flyer here: Got a Pen Lane Cove.
Well done Natalie and Lauren – what a great idea. We know how generous Lane Cove is and we hope you receive some great donations.
Please like the facebook page www.facebook.com/haveyougotapen. They will list what they are currently accepting and updates on the items they need the most. Please also share details of the Facebook page and this blog.