McGill students help kids in need
The pandemic and the resulting economic fallout has taken an overwhelming toll on families and caused significant hardship for those who were already in a precarious situation. But an initiative run by McGill University medical students is helping to ease the strain. Since June 2021, Kits for Kids has been helping alleviate some of the financial difficulties for Montreal-area families through the donation of free essential supplies for underprivileged children.
The team of medical students, physicians, and other volunteers distributed 255 kits to families in need between June and December 2021, and by the end of April 2022 will have given out a total of 475.
“We have only been operating for a little under one year now and are expanding very quickly, which I believe is a statement to the high demand for such an initiative in the Montreal community,” says co-founder and co-president Emilie Groulx-Boivin.
Need is great
The numbers are alarming. According to UNICEF, almost one in five children in Canada lives in poverty, and rates of childhood poverty have continued to increase in certain populations throughout the pandemic. Among 38 rich countries, Canada has fallen from 10th to 30th place over the past decade in child survival (including teen suicide and child mortality) and health (including immunization and unhealthy weight).
“By providing young children with essential hygienic and reusable supplies, we not only ensure that their basic needs are being met but we also alleviate some of the financial burden experienced by the family as a whole,” Groulx-Boivin says.
The charitable organization assembles multiple types of kits tailored to different age groups and their specific needs. Newborns, infants (up to age 2), and toddlers (ages 2-5) receive a reusable bag with an assortment of hygiene products as well as reusable or educational items.
In the Early Development Kit that targets children 2-5, items include markers and Play-Doh to help promote fine motor and cognitive skills in preparation for elementary school. Everything is packaged in a reusable bag with logos of sponsors who donate funds and products. Kits for younger ages could include diapers and wipes, washcloths, books to read aloud, baby hygiene products, hand-knit newborn hats, or soft blankets like the ones knitted by a volunteer in honour of her granddaughter’s Bat Mitzvah.
Groulx-Boivin says the team is constantly making adjustments to the types of items included based on suggestions from the recipient families themselves.
Kits for Kids is currently partnered with five different distribution sites, including the Montreal Children’s Hospital (MCH), La Maison Bleue Saint-Michel, La Maison Bleue Verdun, Tiny Tots pediatric clinic, and CHU Sainte-Justine (the largest mother and child centre in Canada). Families who are experiencing financial hardship and have a child hospitalized at the MCH or Sainte-Justine, or who are followed at a partner clinic can speak with their health professional to request a kit.
Through its social media platforms, the team shares tips for parents, information on child development, and fun activities to do with kids. You can also find details about volunteering for upcoming kit-building events and learn more about donating through their website.