Chicago Charity Distributes Free School Supplies to Low-Income Families

School supplies (notebooks, colored pencils, a pair of scissors, a pencil sharpener, etc.).

Photo credit: Shutterstock

For some families, sending their young children back to school is a daunting prospect. But it’s not the classes or the hours that’s burdensome; it’s the growing list of school supplies that they must purchase.

Sent out in advance or brought home on the first day, the list of required schools supplies seems a lot longer than it was “back in the day.” And it’s not just pencils and notebooks anymore. It’s flashcards and a specific brand of printer paper. It’s calculators at younger and younger ages. It’s classroom supplies like Kleenex and hand sanitizer that schools can’t afford to supply.

In Chicago, approximately 80% of students enrolled in public schools are low-income, according to the Kids Count Data Center. Fortunately, charities like Back 2 School Illinois are helping to ease the financial strain. On Wednesday, August 9th, Back 2 School Illinois distributed nearly 14,000 free school supply kits to low-income students.

The Wednesday event, which happened at Broadway Armory Park, brought in over 400 students ages 6 to 12 for four hours of educational activities along with the giveaway. Chicago Public Schools’ start date is still nearly a month away (September 6th) but the activities were meant to prime the pump, getting school children excited to be back in the classroom. Also, they were planned far enough in advance that parents would not have already gone supply shopping.

The supply kits came packaged for four different age levels, based on consultation with area teachers. Kits for the youngest grades included crayons, markers, and construction paper. Kits for middle schoolers include math tools, binders, and college-ruled notebooks.

After the event, volunteers delivered thousands of kits to YMCA locations around Chicago, where parents can pick them up any time before September. Back 2 School Illinois hopes to deliver as many as 35,000 by the early months of the school year.

Providing Education for Refugees in Lebanon

A crowd of refugees. A young girl around the age of six holds a sign that reads, "SOS."

Photo credit: Alexandre Rotenberg / Shutterstock

Lebanon is a small country in the tense area between Palestine and Syria. It’s about twice the size of Long Island, NY, and one of the smallest non-island countries in the world.

It’s also host to over one million registered refugees from Syria, according to a 2016 report from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. They assume this to be low of the actual number, due to constant arrivals, a slow registration process, and an overwhelmed infrastructure. Their estimate of the actual number is closer to a million and a half. That would mean that more than one in five people in Lebanon is a Syrian refugee. And many of them are children.

Being a refugee is intensely disruptive to the life of a child. Many children that flee their home country never enter education again. Right now, over 200,000 Syrian children in Lebanon aren’t enrolled in school.

The Clooney Foundation for Justice, founded in 2016 by Amal and George Clooney, has partnered with international aid giant UNICEF to work on this issue. The foundation is donating $2.25 million dollars to seven public schools in Lebanon.

There’s already a system in Lebanon for providing education to refugees; schools operate in shifts, teaching local students in the morning, then refugees in the afternoons, doubling their capacity. The Clooney’s grant, boosted by a further $1 million from HP for educational technology, will add those seven schools to the pool that can extend their resources.

“Thousands of young Syrian refugees are at risk—the risk of never being a productive part of society,” the Clooneys said in press release on Monday, July 31st. “Formal education can help change that. That’s our goal with this initiative. We don’t want to lose an entire generation because they had the bad luck of being born in the wrong place at the wrong time.”