Updated: Aug 1
This past school year had a very unique bundle of obstacles due to Covid-19, to say the least. It seems simple, to have school online and be taught from home, however, we have to remember that a total of 65,000 children are without homes in Los Angeles. How could we expect these young students, who are already at risk, to not get left behind this school year? So many students don't have houses to call their homes, let alone laptops and wifi. After doing some research, we learned how disadvantaged these young kids really are. According to nonprofit School on Wheels, "children experiencing homeless are 9x more likely to repeat a grade, 3x more likely to be placed in special education, and 4x more likely to drop out entirely."
We were so disheartened to learn of these realities, we were inspired to organize a school supply drive. But then again, we were faced with Covid-19 difficulties, and staying safe. How could we efficiently collect donations and disperse them by staying as safe as possible? Fortunately for us, we saw that School on Wheels organizes a yearly school drives, and the one this year would be digital. They are brilliant, the backpacks are already pre-stuffed with supplies depending on their age group, all we had to do was start our own digital drive, share the link, get people to sponsor or purchase these backpacks. School on Wheels would handle the rest! We immediately started our own drive, and by word of mouth and sharing it via socials, we, along with the community, were able to raise $2,547 worth of school supplies which purchased 118 out of the 736 pre-stuffed back packs School on Wheels dispersed this past school year.
Along with the digital drive, we wanted to have an art installation dedicated to all students returning back to school. We found a mural in El Sereno, that was dedicated as well to students, but it definitely had a more mundane, sad vibration. We felt an installation right in front would be a great match!
We painted and decorated a bike which was donated. On the back, we attached a basket that had school supplies free to take by the community. Attached to the handlebars were words of affirmations from our Instagram community. We only intended the bike to stay for a few weeks, as we were paying out of pocket for the supplies, but when we returned, we found a couple notes of appreciation and gratitude. We decided it was best to start asking for monetary donations to keep the bike there filled, and so it stayed for about two months and we replenished the supplies weekly. It was so great to see that the donations were gone and very much appreciated every time we returned. We even saw a few times, members of the community even left their own donations in the basket as well!
As the school year continued, and the winter's dew started to dampen the supplies, we decided to bring the bike back in. Overall, from both our personal donations and donations from the community, we filled the bike with an additional $458 worth of brand new school supplies. Together with the community, we raised close to $3,000 of pre-stuffed backpacks. With both aspects of the project, we think it was a great success! Thank you once again, to everyone who's contributed.
If you're passionate about helping unhoused children, please visit the nonprofit we teamed up with, School on Wheels. Not only do they work hard to get donations for supplies, but they have an after school program in Skid Row, as well as offering free tutoring and parenting classes for these families.