Serving our city's most vulnerable teenagers
Robert Schumann is a teacher at the Surrey School District’s FOCUS-TREK program. Located in the heart of Whalley, FOCUS-TREK is home to the city’s most vulnerable teenagers. Disproportionately housed in ministry care, facing significant cognitive and social challenges, and often struggling with drug and alcohol abuse, many of Rob’s students spend each day just trying to get by.
“Our kids are so special,” he says with a smile. “On the outside, they look tough - they need to in order to get by, but on the inside, they’re sensitive and vulnerable, just like any other group of kids.”
A strong focus of the program is socialization and relationship-building and, for the 25 kids that come to FOCUS-TREK everyday, food is a big part of that.
“Some of our kids only eat when they’re at school,” Rob reflects. “So we do as much as we can to make sure they’re involved in preparing food and also eating their fill each day. Whether it’s burritos or lasagna, soup or grilled cheese, we’re trying to pump them full of food because we know that some of them may not eat again until we see them tomorrow.”
For students like this, the support Backpack Buddies has provided is essential to close the weekend hunger gap.
“If not for programs like Backpack Buddies, these students might not eat over the weekends,” Rob says. “They might here and there - but there’s not much assurance of where their next meal is coming from.”
The thing Rob appreciates the most? That the Backpack Buddies have been designed with the kids in mind.
“It’s clear that the Backpack Buddies have been carefully put together to take into account the situations our students live in,” Rob says. “Most of our kids don’t know how to prepare food that involves anything more than adding hot water or microwaving something. It’s not their fault that they don’t know how to cook - they’ve just grown up in a context where they were never able to be taught these skills - and Backpack Buddies recognizes and respects this.”