This year, Algarve children’s charity ACCA stepped up its back-to-school drive and helped some 400 youngsters get the new term started.
As well as providing the basics for its back-to-school programme, the charity also supplies specifics that are requested by the teachers of various schools across the Algarve, thus ensuring that the needs of individual pupils are met.
Many children received a backpack full of all the everyday essentials, such as pens and pencils, rubbers, rulers, note books, glue, scissors, felt tips and colouring pencils.
Those passing into the second stage of schooling, 2º Ciclo, were provided with the more expensive items ¬– dictionaries, calculators, recorders (of the musical kind), scientific calculators and files for those in the more senior classes as well as materials for four new university students.
Planning the back-to-school process is time-consuming and complex, ACCA’s Gwenda Daud told us. “The schools are aware that some students have no ability to pay for materials, and often teachers will keep the supplies we provide and give them out as required. The children at the receiving end could be new starters of age six, through to 18-year-olds.
“Children in need are identified by teachers in school, by local community centres and by organisations caring for the homeless, such as CASA.”
CASA received backpacks for the first time this year and Gwenda saw the delight on the children’s faces. “Many could not believe it. They were overjoyed that they would have all they needed when the school doors opened.
“At another community centre, on the outskirts of Faro, the children were overwhelmed when they received their supplies ¬and one little girl even promised to learn English so she could say ‘thank you’ properly next year.”
Although contributions from the general public were down this year, golf clubs, ladies lunch groups, churches and private firms helped make the programme a success, with ACCA funding the downfall.
Some local authorities – Loulé and Moncarapacho – gave textbooks free to the children in 1º Ciclo, but others gave an allowance of just €30 to each child to purchase what was needed. Considering that a set of books for a child in Year 5, a nine-year-old, costs around €150, ACCA’s involvement becomes all the more important.
Gwenda adds: “We hope that next year we will be able to recruit more volunteers and raise additional funds for this cause. We have already purchased approximately 200 backpacks from Staples in a specially-negotiated deal in readiness for next year’s drive, so we are off to a head start.”
Photo: Two of the hundreds of backpacks purchased by ACCA