Rural communities come together to help students get Back to School

Eyre Peninsula Community Foundation Chair Garry Downey presenting vouchers to Port Lincoln Junio Primary School’s Shannon Haapenen.

STUDENTS and families in remote, rural and regional parts of Australia will start the 2022 school year with extra support, thanks to FRRR and its donors’ generosity and the Community Foundations and groups helping distribute the more than 15,700 Back to School vouchers across the country.

The Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal’s Back to School (BTS) program partners with community groups and Community Foundations to provide $50 gift vouchers to local families in need.

The vouchers are redeemable at select national retailers or local businesses for school essentials like uniforms, shoes, school bags or stationery.

Now in its 18th year, the BTS program has worked with community organisations in rural communities to distribute more than $10.7 million in BTS vouchers and help more than 216,000 students and their families get what they need to start the school year on a positive note.

This includes families that have been impacted by natural disasters such as the 2019-20 Black Summer bushfires, flooding events, and the economic impact of the COVID pandemic. 

Sarah Matthee, FRRR’s General Manager Partnerships & Services, said that the Back to School program continues to give a helping hand to rural families doing it tough.

“The unique aspect of the BTS program is that it taps into the deep understanding and the trusted relationships that local organisations have within their communities to ensure that these vouchers go to families most in need of the support.

“For many rural families, schooling and finances continue to be impacted by the pandemic. Although fifty dollars may not seem much, that little bit of extra help can go towards easing their worries in some small way,” Ms Matthee said.

Local Community Foundations also got behind the BTS program in some communities, with FRRR and its donors offering to match local donations, dollar for dollar.

This year communities raised almost $63,000 in local fundraising across the country.

Thanks to this community support, together with funds from the Origin Energy Foundation, FRRR provided an extra 2,514 vouchers.

One hundred per cent of all donations to the program go directly into purchasing a $50 voucher to support a primary or secondary school student in need.

Eyre Peninsula Community Foundation, in South Australia, has worked with FRRR since 2009 to distribute BTS vouchers to local students and their families.

Garry Downey, Chair of Eyre Peninsula Community Foundation, said the organisation sees a considerable need to continue to help families start their children off well-prepared for their learning years.

“The support of the FRRR program is truly valued, and their willingness to match locally donated funds creates an outstanding opportunity for Eyre Peninsula residents and businesses to boost the impact for local kids.”

You can see the complete list of recipient organisations supporting nearly 100 remote, rural and regional communities through this round of BTS on FRRR’s website.

BTS vouchers are funded through the support of FRRR donor partners, which includes: Portland House Foundation, Perpetual Foundation – Julian Flett Endowment, News Corp Australia, Fire Fight Australia Fund, Counter Point Community Services (Cycle Recycle), Bertalli Family Foundation, UNICEF Australia and Origin Energy Foundation, as well as private and individual donors.

For more information about the program, visit https://frrr.org.au/back-to-school/.

To support grant programs like this through FRRR, you can make a tax-deductible donation at frrr.org.au/giving/.

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