From soccer balls to yoga mats: Student-run charity works to combat child poverty
YNOTFORTOTS co-founders Lindsay Richter (left) and Mohit Sodhi (right) distribute soccer balls and yoga mats to Florence Nightingale Elementary School principal Hope Sterling. (Handout).
When the principal of East Vancouver’s Florence Nightingale Elementary School sees her students racing around the fields with new soccer balls, she knows exactly who to thank: YNOTFORTOTS, a unique charity founded by students at the University of British Columbia.
“Nightingale Elementary is a soccer school – the kids love to play soccer here, and we go through a ton of balls,” said Hope Sterling.
“The kids are just constantly playing, and it’s a gravel field so the balls get worn quite quickly. So YNOTFORTOTS supplied a tonne of brand new, beautiful soccer balls…which the kids thought was just great.”
One in five children in British Columbia live in poverty – a sobering statistic that inspired two UBC students to establish a charity helping schools and children in need across the Lower Mainland.
“We wanted to start at the root of the issue, and we know the great impact that child development has on future long-term health outcomes,” said UBC Experimental Medicine Masters student Mohit Sodhi, who co-founded the organization with Neonatal Medicine student Lindsay Richter.
“There have been significant budget cuts from the government to the school system - and so that’s why YNOTFORTOTS began.”
The premise of the organization is both simple and unique: schools, daycares and families in need of specific items create a wish list on the YNOTFORTOTS website, and the organization does their best to fill the orders.
Items are purchased mainly with funds donated from the public and corporate sponsorships. Around $13,000 worth of items and experiences (such as workshops) will have been donated to schools across the Lower Mainland by June 2017.
YNOTFORTOTS donated these soccer balls and yoga mats to Florence Nightingale Elementary School.
Richter says they were originally surprised at the unique items schools were requesting.
“From Aboriginal story books to soccer balls, from lice kits for an entire classroom to microscopes, and even a trampoline requested for one child for autism,” said Richter. “So it’s quite a range of what we’ve been donating.”
YNOTFORTOTS is currently working with five elementary schools: Lord Strathcona, John Henderson, Florence Nightingale, Admiral Seymour, and Burnaby’s Edmonds Community School – and is looking to help more.
Sterling says partnering with YNOTFORTOTS has been a “wonderful” experience.
“Every now and then you get people who want to help, and you get some who are very helpful and others that don’t come through,” said Sterling. “But this group actually comes through, and they work very hard to provide us with the extras we need for the school.”
Florence Nightingale’s demographic is one of mixed income, and it’s a designated enhanced services (formerly called inner-city) school located in East Vancouver.
Besides the soccer balls, YNOTFORTOTS donated yoga mats to help with mindfulness programs the school has to improve students’ self-regulation, and helped the school get new carpets for a fraction of the price.
A new round of fundraising is currently underway to equip classrooms with staplers, games, white boards, and toys – items that can be hard to obtain as school budgets become more and more strained.
“We’re really thankful, because it makes our school a more fun and enjoyable learning experience for the kids,” said Sterling.
“It’s a wonderful partnership that we’re proud to be part of, and it’s nice to know there are really good people out there in the world that just want to help.”
Children at Florence Nightingale Elementary School enjoying their new carpets.
Richter and Sodhi are also thrilled with the success of their young organization, which began in 2015, and hope the charity keeps expanding.
“I think the coolest part is really seeing the impact when we go and make the deliveries at the school and interact with the kids, and really see how all of our work has paid off,” said Richter.
“Just to see their smiling faces and how excited they are to see the items is really fulfilling.”
When people donate to YNOTFORTOTS, they can be assured 100 per cent of the money goes directly to helping people in their own backyards, Sodhi adds.
“[Donors] are making an impact on all these kids lives,” he said. “We are helping schools and families obtain exactly what they need to ensure that kids have everything they need to help them play, learn and grow.”
Any schools or families that are looking for a bit of extra help are encouraged to reach out to YNOTFORTOTS for assistance, the duo adds, and donations of money or items on school registries are also welcome.
“We want to help these children, and give them a good start so they can end up fulfilling their dreams, whatever that may be,” said Richter.
Donate to YNOTFORTOTS here.