Before Andrea became involved with Backpack Buddies, her dream was simple enough: to find a charity she could volunteer at alongside her 9-year-old twin daughters. Whenever she would inquire about volunteering at local non-profits, she’d get the same answer: adults only.
“But at Backpack Buddies, it’s all about the kids,” she says. “It’s kids helping kids.”
Andrea was smitten by the organization’s unique ethos, and soon after learning about it, she helped bring Backpack Buddies to the Tri-Cities.
All of the students at Meadowbrook Elementary — where her daughters attend — take turns packing backpacks. Every other Thursday, a new group of students comes in to pack. Andrea gives a short talk about the program, and the students get to work.
Andrea (top row, second to the left) with students from Meadowbrook Elementary.
“I’m trying to teach them what it takes to help, that it’s hard work, but also what it feels like when you are done,” she says. “When you teach the kids to do things now, they’re going to be better people and our whole community is going to be affected when it’s a norm for them to help out.”
Andrea, who moved to Canada in 2000, grew up in Slovakia. As a child, she very rarely saw families experiencing hunger. When she was introduced to Backpack Buddies, she was shocked to learn how many Canadian kids don’t have enough food to eat on the weekends.
“As a child, I cared about playing and I was worry-free because I was fed, I had a roof over my head. When I see kids here that are struggling, I feel that I have the means to help,” she says.
This reality motivates Andrea as she coordinates the program and delivers the packed backpacks to three Tri-Cities elementary schools on Fridays. Meadowbrook is also a recipient school, meaning some of the kids who pack also receive backpacks on the weekend.
“Even the children that take the backpacks get the chance to pack. Why would we take that opportunity away from them? They might need it but they still should experience the feeling of helping others.”
One year in, Andrea hopes to continue volunteering with Backpack Buddies well into the future.
“It’s definitely made me a better person. I’m excited about doing it because we get to volunteer with the kids,” she says. “It’s refreshing to see that I am doing something to better the community.”
“I always tell my kids, if we can make somebody’s weekend just a little bit better, then why wouldn’t we do it?”
Backpack Buddies relies on over 650 people like Andrea every year to volunteer their time to help reach children in need in our community. Curious about volunteering? Learn how you can help.