Just days before Quebec’s children return to classrooms hundreds are still on waiting lists of community organizations to receive school supplies.
Representatives for both Reseau Partage and Sun Youth confirmed a considerable increase in demand for supplies this year in Montreal. The two organizations have combined to prepare more than 7,000 backpacks filled with school supplies.
The annual Operation Backpack has already helped to distribute supplies to more than 5,000 children through 15 outlets spread throughout the city.
Reseau Partage co-founder and CEO Sylvie Rochette said the increase in demand is most noticeable in the north and east parts of Montreal. She said the organization hopes to help up to 2,000 additional schoolchildren between September and December with the help of donations from the public.
According to Reseau Partage nearly a quarter of Montreal families with children live below the poverty line.
"If you see a child with no supplies, their self esteem can be low and other children can bully them and laugh at them," said Reseau Partage spokesperson Karine Casault. "Their self-esteem can be even lower so it doesn't help them to continue school and persevere."
On Thursday the organization will hold a fundraising campaign at various downtown locations, including at the Square-Victoria metro station. Rochette said she hopes to raise $45,000.
Sun Youth volunteers have also been hard at work over the past two weeks, having prepared 1,000 backpacks. Spokesperson Jonathan Caisse said they hope to offer another 1,000 directly though schools where the need is greatest.
Caisse said poverty can take many forms, with some who come for help being new immigrants to Quebec, but others suffering due to a loss of income caused by illness. He added there’s been an increase in low-income workers who can’t make ends meet due to the rising cost of living.