Desperate appeal to break cycle of poverty

TheStar.com – News/GTA – Desperate appeal to break cycle of poverty
Published On Sat Dec 26 2009.   Leslie Ferenc, Staff Reporter

You could have heard a pin drop as Shobha Adore talked about the realities of life in Rexdale.

“It’s part of this city where a little boy gets a loaded semi-automatic for his 11th birthday as a rite of passage,” she told members of the Economic Club of Canada recently.

“It’s where little girls come to breakfast programs with stomachs cramped from hunger; where fathers sort through dumpsters behind the grocery stores after dark for enough to feed their families and where children can go through winter with a plastic windbreaker and a thin sweater.”

The executive director of Braeburn Neighbourhood Place, a United Way agency offering programs in poor Etobicoke neighbourhoods, Adore has seen the impact of poverty.

“One hundred per cent more children are living in poverty now than 20 years ago,” she told some of Toronto’s most successful business people. “Test results are telling us that the children of low income, lone-parent families are failing desperately in reading, writing and math.”

Then there’s the crime and violence. “One September in the Braeburn community, mothers grabbed their children and ran for their lives as gun shots rang out across the playground,” she continued. “When it was over, three young men were dead and hundreds of families were left to cope with the horror of that night … they poured bleach and acid mixture on the asphalt where the bodies had fallen, but the stains remained.”

During her emotionally charged address, Adore appealed to donors to help break the cycle of poverty and make a difference in the lives of the less fortunate by supporting United Way and its agencies.

“Braeburn Neighbourhood Place is celebrating its 34th year of service,” she said noting the agency has changed the lives of children, youth, single mothers, seniors, the disabled and disadvantaged.

Two years ago, Grade 7 math scores at a Rexdale middle school were the second-lowest in the city. Of the students, 40 per cent were diagnosed with special needs, were wards of the crown or lived in foster care. Funding from a private donor for a homework club changed the environment and every participating student passed or earned marks higher than their grade level. Sixteen years ago, kids in a local junior school where fighting over food at recess, stealing lunches left in desks or going through the garbage looking for pizza in discarded boxes, she noted.

“The commitment of donors like you has changed that reality for 2,500 children every day and provides the assurance that they will have enough tomorrow.”

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