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Helping to break the cycle of childhood poverty.

Lining the shelves of the We Care Connect warehouse in Wyong are thousands of donations ready to be delivered to children and families in need across the Central Coast region.

Bundles of care packages are expertly sorted by a team of volunteers according to the needs of each individual child to help break the cycle of poverty.

Founded by Derryck Klarkowski six years ago, We Care Connect was established to provide families with the practical items they need to give children the childhood they deserve.

“There’s over 10,000 children living below the poverty line on the Central Coast and double that in the Hunter region,” Derryck said.

“Childhood poverty is a major problem, too big for any one individual or organisation. We started because it became very apparent that there was poverty around us and it needed a community response.

“We provide the space, the logistics and the expertise, but really it’s the community we represent.

“That’s why we call ourselves We Care Connect – because we’re connecting the community.

“We’re connecting dozens of wonderful people who volunteer with us and we’re connecting with hundreds of community donors who give us all the practical items we need that families are struggling to provide.”

Each week a team of almost 60 volunteers sort through pre-loved items and bundle up packages specific to requests that come through from a network of over 300 case workers, social workers and teachers.

“We make sure that everything we give out is first class,” Derryck said.

“Being disadvantaged doesn’t mean you get second class. We’re trying to allow the children to feel normal so they can engage with their friends and school in order to develop themselves and thrive.”

Helen Burkett has been volunteering with We Care Connect almost since the beginning and said it’s incredibly rewarding work.

“Parents worry more about their children than themselves and we like to think that we take that initial concern away so that they can concentrate on other parts of their lives,” Helen said.

“We put a lot of effort into the packages we give out to help the kids fit in with their peers and we know that makes a huge difference to their lives.”

Sadly, demand for the grassroots charity has grown exponentially in recent years.

“When We Care Connect was founded in 2016, we supported just over 400 children. This year we anticipate to support around 4,500 children,” Derryck said.

“Covid played a large role in this, but recently we’ve seen the biggest increase ever due to a combination of a sudden onset of cold weather, soaring fuel prices, rent prices and food prices.

“Families that were coping are no longer coping and that’s why we’re being inundated at the moment.”

We Care Connect volunteer Helen packing bundles for families in need.
We Care Connect volunteer Helen packing bundles for families in need.

We Care Connect Team Member, Helen Barker, said no parent should have to make a decision between buying groceries for the week or a warm blanket for their child to have in bed.

“The families we’re supporting may be experiencing severe financial hardship, domestic violence, dealing with a medical diagnosis or be single parents that need a helping hand,” Helen said.

“To be able to improve quality of life, reduce that financial burden, and reduce risk of social marginalisation is such a special thing to be able to do for these children.”

In addition to previous funding for a van, We Care Connect recently received a grant from Newcastle Permanent Charitable Foundation to expand their program in Newcastle.

“One of the biggest challenges for an organisation is funding,” Helen said.

“This partnership means we’ll be able to provide Hunter families with the same access to items that families receive here on the Central Coast and we can’t wait to offer that service.

“Both us and the Charitable Foundation share the same belief that children shouldn’t live in poverty. Together we can help change that cycle of poverty and provide every day essentials that these families deserve.”

About We Care Connect

We Care Connect’s volunteer led model delivers a practical, in-demand service that benefits families in poverty through the provision of high quality essential childhood equipment and supplies, linked to a network of agencies and case workers.

We Care Connect have established a Hunter hub to mirror the success of its Central Coast operations.

With a $70,000 grant from the Charitable Foundation, We Care Connect has set up a sustainable operation to support Newcastle, Lake Macquarie and the lower Hunter.