Recent Articles in ‘Stories’


Poverty a growing concern in Guildford

By GERRY BELLETT For the past three years, staff at Surrey’s Bonaccord elementary have been manning the barricades against a rising tide of poverty that’s beginning to overwhelm them. This school of 530 students is in Guildford, an area in “transition,” says principal Jacob Sol. Which is a way of saying this North Surrey neighbourhood […]

Maple Ridge

Volunteers and bus tickets needed in Maple Ridge

By GERRY BELLETT Suburban living doesn’t get much better than in Maple Ridge, says Trevor Connor, principal of Maple Ridge Secondary. And on a bright day in the midst of the tidy, well-kept homes that surround his school, it appears self-evident. But — appearances notwithstanding — not everyone here is living the suburban dream. “Because […]

Hungry Children

Hungry Children: The story stays the same

By SHELLEY FRALIC I am weary. Weary of writing about bad news that never seems to change, weary of telling the same story over and over, weary that no matter how important the message being imparted, we as a people seem unwilling to tackle the societal dysfunction staring us right in the face. So, here […]

Strathcona Comm Centre

Strathcona centre nourishes the DTES: From breakfast to backpacks to food banks, programs feed every need

By GERRY BELLET VANCOUVER — There are two institutions to be found at 601 Keefer Street in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside — the Strathcona Community Centre and Ron Suzuki. The centre is more sanctuary than fitness club and Suzuki, its recreation director, is a local legend despite his reticence to take any credit for attempting to […]

Douglas Road

Students well-served at Burnaby school: Beedie Development Group support means daily breakfast and lunch once a week

By GERRY BELLETT It’s Friday and lunch day at Burnaby’s Douglas Road Elementary and there’s nothing but joy on the face of principal Mary-Ann Brown as she dishes out the macaroni and cheese to the line of waiting children each holding a plastic container and spoon. “We do this once a week and the kids […]

Boston Bar

Boston Bar school growing own vegetables to feed students

By GERRY BELLETT It may well be the smallest school seeking help from this year’s Adopt-A-School campaign, but the 60-pupil elementary-secondary school here has the biggest ambition. And that is to provide an abundance of vegetables for everyone in the school — especially children whose families are struggling financially — and for the community’s food […]


New tech needed to help hurting kids

By GERRY BELLETT Principal Deena Kotak often relies on the word “complex” when talking about her school and the needs of its children. She is responsible for Lord Beaconsfield Elementary at Penticton and East 20th and its annex — Alderwood Family Development Centre — five blocks away on Kaslo and East 18th. “Complex” is a […]


Hungry children need our help

By GERRY BELLETT Some dangerous childhood conditions can be prevented in seconds: measles, mumps, polio, meningitis, diphtheria. But there’s no inoculation against hunger, no needle in the arm to ward that off. It takes three meals a day to prevent hunger and its companion, misery. Yet for many children living in poverty, three meals in […]

Donation gives east-side Vancouver school new hope

By GERRY BELLETT When the school year began last September, the number of parents volunteering to serve on Cunningham Elementary’s parent advisory council (PAC) would have fit in a broom closet. Then the very idea that the parent body of this East Vancouver school could provide the numbers or the will to organize the school’s […]

4-Apr-2015 Couple saw need

Meet the ‘foster parents’ of Twelfth Avenue Elementary

By Shelley Fralic David Westrheim was reading his Vancouver Sun one Saturday morning not long ago when he happened upon an Adopt-a-School story detailing just how many local schoolchildren show up at school every day not having eaten breakfast. “By the time I got through it, I was weeping,” says Westrheim. “I just had no […]

Hungry kids and not enough classrooms only part of Surrey’s budget woes

By Daphne Bramham It’s a miracle that anybody wants to be a school trustee in British Columbia. The government has them in strait jackets. It sets their budgets and every year gives them less to work with. They have no way to raise more money aside from begging for donations. They don’t negotiate salaries even […]

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2000 Children go hungry in Vancouver schools every day; But with board budget cut by $18M this year, there’s no money for extra food services

By Gerry Bellett Despite efforts by the Vancouver school district to feed impoverished children, there are still 2,000 students going hungry every day, according to a district report. And it will cost an estimated $1.7 million to feed them – money the district doesn’t have – says the report from the food services department. The […]

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Who will feed Vancouver’s 2,000 hungry school kids?

By Daphne Bramham There is something deeply wrong in British Columbia and with our government that thousands of children are hungry and school districts are forced to beg private donors for food on their behalf. The Vancouver school district feeds breakfast and lunch to 5,000 elementary and secondary school children every day. But it says […]


Don’t Mind If I Do

More than $5,900 was raised for the New Westminster Senior Secondary’s Youth Program on Sunday at a Vancouver Sun Adopt-a-School fundraising dinner. The dinner was hosted by Anthony Gismondi, The Vancouver Sun’s wine critic, and Jane Ferrari, a storyteller from the 165-year-old, family-owned Australian winery Yalumba Wines. Program co-ordinator, youth worker Carl Lewis, was in […]


Boston Bar’s only school wants to grow food for hungry kids; Principal hopes to fix up greenhouse to supply fresh produce

By Gerry Bellett Spring has come to the coast but up here in the heart of the Fraser Canyon there’s still a winter’s chill on the wind as Debra Devine, principal of the community’s only school, wrestles with an old, rusty lock guarding a broken-down greenhouse. The building – if she could only fix it […]


New Westminster food program casualty of budget cuts, leaving needy students hungry

BY GERRY BELLETT British Columbia schools have been subjected to budget cutbacks in recent years, but one day in November 2013, the families of the 2,000 or so students attending New Westminster Secondary School awoke to find the school’s operating budget had been pushed off a cliff. The year previous, the budget had been $800,000. […]

Teacher Carrie Gelson

How things change, yet stay the same at one inner city school

By GERRY BELLETT Three years ago, The Vancouver Sun began its Adopt-a-School campaign to help schools cope with the demands of poverty. So if there’s a Christmas Eve story to be told about the campaign there is no better setting than ground zero — Admiral Seymour Elementary — although for those blessed tonight with that […]

Cunningham Elementary principal Joanne Dale (right) reacts to the donation by Telus and the Rotary Club of Vancouver. Liz Sauve of Telus is on the left, and Katie Griffiths of Telus in the middle.

Telus and Rotary Club of Vancouver bring tears of joy to Cunningham Elementary

By GERRY BELLETT Tears flowed Thursday at George T. Cunningham Elementary when principal Joanne Dale and Parents Advisory Council president Bentley Jung discovered that their dreams — $50,000 worth of computers and programs for the school’s large number of autistic and special needs children — had been answered by donations from the Rotary Club of […]

Cunningham elementary teachers Jill Lewis, left, and Nikki Short, who both work with autistic children, are seeking more iPads to help the special-needs kids at the east-side school.
Photograph by: Arlen Redekop , Vancouver Sun

Urgent need for tech at east-side school with high number of autistic children

By GERRY BELLETT Bentley Jung pulls up short while explaining how something as simple as the availability of a worn-out laptop had the power to transform his son’s life in school. “I’m sorry but it’s very emotional for me,” he said, remembering the afternoon some weeks ago when his son came home radiant after being […]


Corporate toy run is all about Christmas spirit

By SHELLEY FRALIC Should you be in search of the spirit of Christmas, so often lost in the rush to retail and piles of wrapping paper, look no farther than the delighted face of a youngster receiving an unexpected gift from a not-so-secret Santa. Look no farther than Shania Johnson, who is in Grade 12 […]


SOS saves families from hunger

By GERRY BELLETT It’s called the SOS store and it’s in a locked room in the basement of Norquay Elementary on Slocan Street. And if it looks a little grim with cement block walls and pipes and ducts hanging from the ceiling, and with rows of dusty microscopes stacked in a corner, it’s unlikely that […]


Arming girls with what they need to stay safe

By DAPHNE BRAMHAM Girls were already piling into the gym at the Spectrum Learning Centre before the call went out: “All women warriors to the gym.” A couple of girls were already taping together a patchwork of ratty mats. Soon, after a brief warm-up, they would start flipping and throwing each other to the ground […]

charlie's closet

Donors help Charlie’s Closet keep Tupper secondary students well dressed

By Gerry Bellet A year ago Charlie’s Closet was almost bare – just two used T-shirts on a rickety clothes rack in a small storage room at Tupper secondary school in east Vancouver. Hardly an inventory to be of much help for impoverished students needing socks, underwear, coats, pants, jackets, shirts or shoes. “We didn’t […]

Irwin Nathanson, right, meets with Grandview Elementary school principal Jason Eng.
Photo by Jason Payne

Lawyers take firm stance on student success at East Vancouver school

Irwin Nathanson, a respected member of the bar, asked a question this week while sitting in the principal’s office of Grandview Elementary that he believes others must be asking, too. The latest child poverty statistics showing 169,420 children in B.C. living below the poverty line was the preamble. “To me, the idea that kids are […]


Grandview Elementary principal has gaps to fill

By Gerry Bellett The witty French diplomat who once observed “We know it works well in practice, but does it work well in theory?” would find a soulmate in Jason Eng, principal of Grandview Elementary. Eng sits in his cramped office at the school on the east side of the city where many of the […]

Vancouver Canucks head coach Willie Desjardins speaks to the students at Grandview Elementary

Canucks coach visits Adopt-a-School schools to encourage students

By Gerry Bellett A qualified social worker and holder of two teaching degrees, Willie Desjardins has a curious background for a National Hockey League coach. But it showed to good effect Friday in the lunch room of Grandview Elementary School, where in the midst of 160 children, the coach of the Vancouver Canucks looked as […]

The Beedie Group attends a breakfast with students at Douglas Road elementary in Burnaby

Beedie dishes out for Burnaby school kids

The measure of how determined people are to make the world a better place can be defined by what they are prepared to give up. So when teachers at Burnaby’s Douglas Road elementary give up their staff room each morning so children coming to school hungry can sit there while they serve them breakfast, it’s […]

Tracey McVicar and a group of women from the business and financial community have stepped in to pick up the tab for the emergency breakfast program at Edmonds Community School.

Burnaby school breakfast program gets boost from group of businesswomen

By Gerry Bellett In 2011, The Vancouver Sun’s Children’s Fund sent $11,000 to Edmonds Community School to pay for breakfasts for the 45 children coming to school hungry every day. “We’ve just about used up that money,” Mischa Greenwood, the school’s community coordinator, said earlier this week. The Burnaby school had only asked for $8,000 […]


Shelley Fralic: Feeding hungry kids, thanks to Sun readers

By Shelley Fralic Who knew, three years later, that once Vancouver Sun readers began hearing some of those heartbreaking stories, that they would so unselfishly step forward and open both their wallets and their hearts. Maybe teacher Carrie Gelson knew, when she wrote an open letter to Vancouverites in the fall of 2011, frustrated and […]

Admiral Seymour Elementary School’s Carrie Gelson was the teacher who kick-started the Adopt-a-School program with her plea to help feed the hungry kids in her classroom. She is pictured with students in her Grade 3/4 class. Photo: Jenelle Schneider/Vancouver Sun

Child poverty drives Adopt-a-School campaign

By Gerry Bellett In the past three years The Vancouver Sun’s Adopt-a-School campaign has distributed $1.4 million to dozens of schools in Metro Vancouver and other parts of the province. The money has been used to alleviate hunger and provide clothing to children arriving at school without a proper breakfast or a warm jacket. It has […]


You don’t have to be rich to be giving

By DAPHNE BRAMHAM Vancouver Sun It is often easier to be blinkered to the social problems that are so clearly evident on the streets of Vancouver than have to think on what can be done about homelessness, drug addiction and mental illness. If governments can’t seem to heal those problems, what can one person do to […]


International company to donate 85 laptops to 17 needy Metro Vancouver schools

By GERRY BELLETT VIO Corp is an international communications company — virtually unknown in Vancouver — that does all its business in the Middle East. But on Friday, the Vancouver-based company unveiled plans to donate 85 laptop computers to 17 of Metro Vancouver’s most needy schools. Each school will receive four computers from its Vision […]


Strathcona principal gets her Christmas wish

#vansunkids By GERRY BELLETT Strathcona Elementary principal Margaret Jorgensen has dreamt for years of finding the means to set up a computer-assisted literacy program at her Downtown Eastside school where many students living in extreme poverty struggle to read. Her friend Ron Suzuki, who runs the adjacent Strathcona Community Centre, said such a program would […]