Recent Articles in ‘Stories’


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 […]

Tanya Kozak

Adopt-a-School: Teachers will go it alone to pay for breakfast program if necessary #vansunkids

BY GERRY BELLETT The hunger game was manageable when Tanya Kozak was hired three years ago as a child-care worker at Surrey’s David Brankin Elementary. “There wasn’t so much of it back then,” said Kozak. But the next year it suddenly got worse, and Kozak started coming in early to make oatmeal for 10 to […]

Up to 70 children are fed a hot breakfast at Twelfth Avenue elementary school in Burnaby every morning. Teacher Angela Collins-Chen serves up food while principal Marilyn Kwok makes breakfast.
Photograph by: Jason Payne, PNG Files , Vancouver Sun

Community struggles to meet children’s needs

  #vansunkids By DAPHNE BRAMHAM It’s a scramble at Burnaby’s Twelfth Avenue Elementary School to make sure that the kids have even their most basic needs met – whether it is enough food or proper clothes. The school, near the boundary with New Westminster, has a very mixed group of families. There are lots of […]

Amrithma Dhillon, left, volunteers to serve students at Mitchell elementary in Richmond. The school would like to continue their lunch and breakfast program and to buy a dishwasher. Photograph by: Wayne Leidenfrost, PNG , Vancouver Sun

Breakfast needed more than ever: Hungry pupils can’t learn #vansunkids

  BY GERRY BELLETT It was in September two years ago that Mitchell elementary principal Madhuri Pendharkar realized something had to be done about the number of children coming to school hungry or without food to see them through the day. “We had a lot of kids that needed feeding,” said Pendharkar. “It was two-fold: […]

Shakayla Bowe and Kayci, with youth worker Carley Romas, at Charles Tupper Secondary’s program for young moms in Vancouver. Photograph by: Wayne Leidenfrost , Vancouver Sun

Adopt-a-School: Providing for young moms — and babies #vansunkids

BY GERRY BELLETT Kayci is 16 weeks old and her mother Shakayla Bowe is 16 years old — a symmetry of weeks and years that will never come again. And if those numbers suggest this is a child looking after a baby, the ready smile on the baby’s face shows that this is a child […]

rances Stone at home with her three children Austin, age 12 ( C ) , Aidan, age 7 ( R ) and Maya, age 6 ( L ), Burnaby,  Gerry Kahrmann  /  PNG)

The long climb out of poverty

BY DAPHNE BRAMHAM This Christmas is a special one for Frances Stone and her three children. This year, they didn’t have to rely on charity. “I bought all my children Christmas gifts. I bought all of them myself,” says the 38-year-old Burnaby mom. “That’s a huge thing for me. It’s the first year that I’ve […]

Nezhat Khosrowshahi (second from right) donated money for scholarships for students at CABE in Coquitlam wishing to go to community college. Pictured clockwise from left to right: Alaska Petrie with Rosalie Petrie, 17 months, Sofia Hernandez with Santiago Hernandez, 19 months, and Alex Johnstone with Milo Johnstone-Lloyd, 17 months. (Photo: Jason Payne/PNG)

Adopt-a-School: Financial boost helps teen moms excel in school #vansunkids

BY GERRY BELLETT Even in an ideal world of well-heeled and supportive parents, post-secondary education remains a struggle for many students when the most they have to worry about is getting assignments in on time. How much more of a struggle then for 18-year-old Sofia Hernandez? She’s a teenage mother living on social assistance of […]


Strathcona Elementary families enjoy Metro Theatre’s pantomime #vansunkids

BY GERRY BELLETT If you‘ve never seen one before, nothing can prepare you for a good old-fashioned English pantomime. So when about 80 children and parents from Strathcona Elementary school in the Downtown Eastside entered Metro Theatre, Saturday night, to see their first panto — Jack and the Beanstalk — Catherine Morrison thought it advisable […]

Optometrist Dr. Lloyd Mah examines four-year-old Kai Yao at his Coquitlam office Wednesday. Mah contacted The Sun about reaching out to children in need of eye exams and glasses.
Photograph by: Nick Procaylo, PNG , Vancouver Sun

B.C. optometrists focus on kids

  Nearly 2,900 kindergarten students will receive free eye exams – and glasses, if needed #vansunkids BY DAPHNE BRAMHAM You don’t need scientific research to figure out that if you can’t see properly, it makes learning all the more difficult. But what may be surprising is that some studies suggest as many as 60 per […]

Adrienne Beaton, Sir Charles Tupper secondary youth and family worker, and school counsellor Joseph Lee in front of 'Charlie's Closet at the Vancouver school. The pair are seeking cash donations to fund Charlie's Closet, a sort of in-school clothing store for impoverished kids.
Photograph by: Jason Payne , Vancouver Sun

Adopt-a-School: A closet for students who don’t have one at home #vansunkids

BY GERRY BELLETT There are some students attending Vancouver’s Sir Charles Tupper Secondary who own their own cars. And there are some who own only the clothes on their backs. The gulf that exists between those two groups needs no exploring. “Kids with cars? Yes. I remember seeing one kid broken down who didn’t know […]


Telus donating $1 for every social media mention of #vansunkids

Every time you use the social media hashtag #vansunkids, you’ll be helping impoverished children in your community. Telus is donating $1 to The Vancouver Sun Children’s Fund Adopt-a-School campaign for every mention of the campaign tagged with the #vansunkids hashtag, up to a limit of $20,000. Telus has been a supporter of our Adopt-a-School program […]

Christine Wilcox (left) and Christine Casselman oversee tutors Wilson Adhikari (right) and Caroline Nguyen during an after-school tutoring program at Queen Eliazbeth High School in Surrey, BC, November, 28, 2013. It is an initiative to help at risk students achieve academic success and keep them away from gang involvement.
Photograph by: RICHARD LAM , PNG

Surrey school’s peer tutoring program isn’t just about grades

  By GERRY BELLETT Twenty-three murders so far this year and the soul-searching in Surrey has begun. Officially it started Nov. 19 (after the 22nd murder) when Mayor Dianne Watts and RCMP Supt. Bill Fordy promised a task force would be struck to find some way to reduce the bloodletting. Gangs and the drug trade […]

Everybody in the community has to be involved in eliminating poverty, says Michael McAfee, who heads the Promise Neighborhoods Institute in Oakland, Calif.
Photograph by: Steve Bosch, PNG , Vancouver Sun

A coordinated attack on poverty

From cradle to career: Promise Neighborhoods program offers ‘big leadership’ and ‘big dollars’ By DAPHNE BRAMHAM It’s a radical idea: Breaking the poverty cycle is simple. That’s what Michael McAfee is helping to prove as director of the Promise Neighborhoods Institute , where he works with more than 60 of the most distressed communities in […]

Admiral Seymour elementary teacher Andrea Wilks, right, is joined by former MLA Joan McIntyre, who donated to The Vancouver Sun's Adopt-A-School campaign, which in turn helped pay for this sensory room at the school. The room will be used for children with emotional problems who cause disturbances in class and need help to calm down.
Photograph by: Jenelle Schneider, PNG , Vancouver Sun

Helping children with sensory overload

Donations create a place for students to calm down when the world gets too hectic   By GERRY BELLETT In late October the painters were finishing off the walls inside Admiral Seymour elementary’s new sensory centre, putting it out of commission, which was a pity because there was a young boy that morning whose nerves […]


Donors with hearts of gold help Richmond’s needy children

Food programs get 10-year commitment By DAPHNE BRAMHAM It is the longest commitment Adopt-a-School has ever received – $100,000 for food programs over 10 years. Not only are the Hearts of Gold Foundation and Centro Dental Group donating $10,000 a year to help feed hungry schoolchildren in Richmond, they’re setting up a pilot project that […]

Harrison Lee

It doesn’t matter who’s to blame, the village needs to feed the children #vansunkidsfund

BY SHELLEY FRALIC Whose fault is it that a kindergartner arrives for school every morning without having had breakfast and, sometimes, without having eaten dinner the night before? Who’s to blame when an elementary student comes to class lacking a warm coat, winter boots, gloves or even socks, and then opens a tattered backpack to […]