July 23-29, 2012
Church Ministry News
YMCA in Changhua offers lunch to children from low-income families during summer recess
Reported by Chen Wei-chien
Written by Lydia Ma
Summer vacation is usually a joyous and long-awaited season for children, but for low-income families trying to make ends meet, it is actually a challenging season. One of the difficulties these families must face is where to send their children and how to provide lunch for them when classes are not in session. Seeing the plight of these families, YMCA’s Changhua branch recently decided to provide lunch to some of its students attending the summer program.
YMCA’s Changhua branch offers 14 afterschool classes throughout the city and most of the 397 students enrolled in them come from low-income families. Ten of these classes are managed in collaboration with Changhua Presbytery while the remaining four are run by YMCA directly. Because of summer recess, this afterschool program has been reduced to 5 classes only and the number of enrolled students has decreased to 120. However, running these 5 classes in addition to providing lunch for 120 students will cost the YMCA an estimated NT$190,000.
YMCA-Changhua General Secretary Chen Chi-chih said that the local YMCA had begun to offer afterschool programs to children from low-income families about 9 years ago. The program originally included lunch, but this was cancelled when local schools began providing lunch to all students. Chen said the reason the YMCA decided to provide lunch again was because it discovered that many children didn’t have anything to eat during lunch hour in the summer months.
When interviewed about this program, Chen shared a story that has remained close to his heart. He said that there was once a child from a poor family who, upon attending the YMCA’s afterschool program, began to show signs of improvement. The child’s grade soon rose to the top of his class. One day, the child was discovered stealing money at an internet café shop because he had not eaten a square meal for more than 10 days. When Chen was called to take care of this situation, he was terribly sad for this child. It was then that he saw the need to continue offering afterschool programs during summer recess and also provide lunch to these children.
Chen believes that the YMCA cannot leave these kids unattended over summer recess. “Getting a square meal should be an easy task for most people, but that is not the case for children from low-income families,” he said. He also added that these lunches are not free, and students are asked to pay NT$10 per meal. “It’s okay if they don’t have ten dollars to give and they can still eat. But we must care for the self-esteem of these children and also teach them to be responsible.”