We know Harold the giraffe well. We remember the excitement as the mobile classroom pulled up. It was a highlight of the school year – a visit from Life Education Trust.
The charity's interactive lessons were a memorable part of our childhood, and they continue to educate and inspire children today.
Empowering children to make safer and healthier choices, their programme covers topics such as identity and resilience, food and nutrition, human biology, relationships and communities, and substances.
While the core of their work has remained the same since 1988, like most charities this year, operations looked a bit different.
Astrid Martin, Life Education Trust Western Bay of Plenty Region Trust Chairperson, says the charity experienced struggles due to the lockdown.
"Unfortunately, the impacts of the COVID-19 lockdown created many challenges for businesses and community organisations, and Life Education Western Bay of Plenty experienced related struggles. Our Trustees have been working hard to ensure we emerge again in a sustainable way so we can continue our work in the Bay of Plenty for years to come.
"We are thrilled to now be back on track, visiting schools and providing our health and wellbeing programmes to tamariki in our community. Our 2020 booking calendar is now filling up fast, and we have had very positive responses from schools, including interest from schools we have previously not visited for a couple of years."
Astrid says their work will be more important than ever in the months ahead, with many children coping with additional stress and anxiety due to challenges faced this year.
"Schools are reporting higher levels of anxiety amongst their children and we expect that this topic will be highly requested for our Educator to address during her visits.
"Over recent years, many schools have requested their visits cover mental health topics of feelings and emotions, resilience and stress management to help children with stress and anxiety. Children now require support and education in this area more than ever. Our programme is tailored for each school, to meet the unique needs of their children as part of their teaching plan."
Operating in our region since 1993, Life Education Trust Western Bay of Plenty visits around 40 schools and impacts over 12,500 children a year across the region.
While school contributions make up some of their income, Life Education's work is mainly supported by philanthropic grants, donations and fundraising. They also hold a breakfast fundraiser each year.
With schools closed, and their fundraiser cancelled due to lockdown, the charity struggled to raise enough income to start programme delivery again.
To help stay afloat and cover their income shortfall, Life Education Trust Western Bay of Plenty Region applied to the WBOP COVID-19 Recovery Fund, established by local funders TECT, Acorn Foundation, BayTrust, and Tauranga City Council.
They were recently approved $7,000 in funding. Astrid says the grant will go a long way to ensuring children in our region are supported during this time.
"This Recovery funding has been hugely important for us. It has supported the job security of our newly appointed and exceptionally talented Educator Chantelle Smith, particularly during the transitional period of her training and the first school bookings which have just started, and will continue until the end of 2020 school year.
"The work of our Educator is extremely valuable, supporting children's mental health and wellbeing and teaching them tools to regulate stress and anxiety, and to increase resilience. We are so grateful to our local funders for recognising that and helping us get through this; it truly has helped us survive."
Tauranga City Council's interim Manager of Community Development, Anne Blakeway says the funding is helping the community recover.
"Life Education Trust is part of the fabric of this region, inspiring our tamariki and rangatahi to make positive choices. With Covid-19 greatly impacting the mental health and wellbeing of children, we feel incredibly fortunate to have Life Education in our schools providing the extra support they need during this time.
"We are so pleased that our Covid-19 funding partnership with other local funders is impacting the community where it is needed most; not only enabling the longer-term rebuild of the community sector, but helping our people recover."
To learn more about Life Education Trust, visit www.lifeeducation.org.nz