Adopt-A-School: For Surrey principal, school breakfast program is personal

Linda Chau, principal of Mary Jane Shannon Primary School in Surrey, was two years old in 1980 when her family — boat people who had fled Vietnam — were admitted to Canada after spending 18 months as refugees in Hong Kong.

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Every weekday morning Linda Chau, Head of Mary Jane Shannon Primary School in Surrey, sweeps the grounds and watches the first children arrive at school – invariably hungry and, at times, poorly dressed, wet and cold.


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Some are new citizens of Surrey – refugees. Foreigners in a foreign country.

And no matter how many times she makes her rounds, Chau can never watch the scene without a lump in her throat.

“When I see one bring their younger siblings… I see myself taking my little sister to the breakfast program at Strathcona Elementary (in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver).

“I get really emotional. For me, it’s personal. »

That’s because she was once a refugee herself, heading like today’s children to the warmth and comfort of a provided breakfast.

Chau was two years old in 1980 when her family – boat people who had fled Vietnam – were admitted to Canada after spending 18 months as refugees in Hong Kong.

Thus, the hardships of the poor, migrant and refugee families whose children attend his school in North Surrey, are a lived experience for Chau.


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His family lived in a small apartment near Prior Street in Vancouver, a neighborhood that includes the poorest postal code in Canada. And they needed the food support provided by Strathcona Elementary.

“My parents took a long time to get back on their feet. But they had a work ethic and went everywhere knocking on doors trying to find work.

Her father got a job in Chinatown, and her mother worked as a seamstress and also did the dishes.

“My father worked during the day and my mother at night.”

This is not unusual for parents who depend on minimum wage jobs.

Her school is part of the district’s Attendance Matters program, which feeds children whose parents struggle to provide enough food after paying rent and other expenses.


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“Being nourished is essential for children to learn. It also helps parents whose money does not stretch to cover basic needs,” she said.

Studies show that low attendance children in lower grades are more likely to drop out before graduation, so food is used as an incentive to keep poor children in school.

Surrey needs $100,000 from the Vancouver Sun’s Adopt-A-School campaign to buy food for the hundreds of children in 19 schools that Attendance Matters feeds every day.

This year, an anonymous donor is offering to match Attendance Matters donations of up to $50,000.

The school also needs $2,500 to clothe the children.

“Our students are missing a lot of essentials – rain boots, mittens, socks, winter coats,” Chau said. “For families coming from countries with warmer climates, a Canadian winter can be shocking.


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Some children wear old clothes or oversized clothes and shoes.

“They need the right size clothes and it’s important that their shoes fit properly. Parents do their best, but some kids come in wearing the same clothes day after day.

Having emergency funds for Adopt-A-School allows it to “get them a new pair of pants, new underwear, new socks and boots, and winter coats.”

Every morning Chau sits with the children for breakfast and at noon she will be in the pantry and clothes closet distributing food and clothes.

“I want to make sure our children get what they need. I am living proof of how these programs will benefit children. Without these supports? Well, they were essential for me and my family.


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“I see myself in these children and I see my parents in their parents. And I know that providing these children with food and basic needs takes a huge load off their families.

“For me, I feel like my life has come full circle. I’ve been served, and now I’m serving.

“Seeing these children reminds me so much of myself. It is very moving.

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How to make a donation

1 ONLINE: Donate online with a credit card at , or complete and submit the donation form found in the newspaper.

2. PHONE: To donate by credit card, call 604-605-2264.

3. MAIL: Complete the donation form here and mail it to the address on the form with completed credit card details or a check/money order payable to Vancouver Sun Children’s Fund Society.

Vancouver Sun Children’s Fund Society

The Vancouver Sun Children’s Fund welcomes donations from readers year-round to enable us to help hungry children. Donations are tax deductible and 100 percent of donations received go to grant projects to help needy children in British Columbia.

Contact: Michelle Roebuck, Fund Administrator, at [email protected], or call 604-605-2264.

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