Big Group Hug director Angela Wood and co-director Geraldine Camilleri say child poverty does exist locally and more needs to be done for children and families.

By Aleksandra Bliszczyk

A CITY of Whittlesea-based not-for-profit organisation has launched a month-long campaign to raise awareness and funds to help alleviate local childhood poverty.  

For the month of October and coinciding with Anti-Poverty Week, Big Group Hug is asking residents to register for its Take The Lead campaign and change their profile pictures on social media accounts to one of them as a young child. For every like or comment, participants are encouraged to chat about the seriousness of childhood poverty in Australia and encourage others to Take the Lead and help make a difference.

Big Group Hug provides essential supplies to thousands of families and children Victoria-wide, but especially in the Whittlesea suburbs, who are experiencing financial stress.

In the previous financial year it experienced a 59 per cent increase in demand for its services, which executive director Geraldine Camilleri said showed the stark reality of poverty close to home.

“More so than ever now we’re seeing the impact of local poverty on our children, especially with more and more families being infected with COVID,” Ms Camilleri told the Review.

“At the moment it’s situational poverty, so they may have a roof over their head, but they don’t have any expendable income or any income to supply just the day-to-day things they’re needing.”

Big Group Hug has been receiving many requests for larger, expensive items like cots and prams, as well as clothing for teenagers and basic supplies for newborns.

“We’re getting more and more requests for formula for people to just be able to feed their babies,” Ms Camilleri said.

This year, one in six Australian children is living in poverty, and Ms Camilleri said it’s an issue that sorely needs more awareness and aid.

“Local childhood poverty does exist,” she said.

“When we think about poverty a lot of us go straight to overseas, the image comes to us of a child in third-world country, but that’s not the case. Our local children and our local families are needing our support more than ever.”

With cases of COVID-19 still raging in the City of Whittlesea, and families increasingly relying on meals, groceries or essential items supplied by local organisations, Big Group Hug hopes more awareness on the issue will encourage people check on their neighbours and to support grassroots groups.

“If anyone can say there’s been a positive of COVID it’s that people are at home and able to go through their items and are donating more than ever,” Ms Camilleri said.

But some things can’t be donated, like formula, nappies, toiletries, underwear and socks. More funds raised this month would help to meet growing need.

To register for the Take the Lead Campaign, visit bghtakethelead.raisely.com. Anti-Poverty Week begins on October 17, for more information visit antipovertyweek.org.au.

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