One mum's initiative to try and put together a few back-to-school items for kids whose parents might be struggling with rising school costs has completely exploded thanks to community generosity.
In just one week, Tracey Burford managed to collect over 50 schoolbags loaded with essentials for kids heading into the new school year.
It's a number Mrs Burford - who started the solo initiative three years ago - was completely floored by.
"I usually do it just [by] myself. This is the third year I've done it. I usually just put a [call-out] on my Facebook page," she explained.
"[The idea] didn't derive from anything in particular," Mrs Burford added, other than a desire to "pay it forward". And, as was so aptly stated in Mrs Burford's Facebook call-out; "Education is the key to building on young people's capacity in our community".
The 50-odd backpacks which have been dropped off at Mrs Burford's home in the lead-up to the school year had come from around 12 people, with even more expected to arrive.
"I'm surprised by the generosity ... last year we did 29. Our goal [this year] was to get 30," she laughed.
I'm surprised by the generosity.Tracey Burford
"Some people might have bought one or two backpacks ... there's a mixture of bags - the products inside are all new but some backpacks are second-hand and have been rewashed."
While some community members try to offer cash donations, Mrs Burford prefers to deal only with the school items - asking would-be-donors to purchase bags, stationary, uniforms and lunchboxes themselves and then donate them.
With the backpacks of essentials destined Orange school kids, Mrs Burford hopes if they do nothing else, they manage to help children transition into the new school year - which can be daunting enough without the added stress of feeling different to their peers.
With that in mind, Mrs Burford is still encouraging anyone - whether they be teachers, parents, guardians or children themselves - in need of school items to get in touch by sending her a message through Facebook.
The 50-odd school children who will benefit from the donated items - all of whom attend public schools in Orange - are unlikely to be alone when it comes to being stung by education costs.
Even before the financial hardship of the pandemic, regional families especially were facing rising costs.
In 2019, a study conducted by not-for-profit, Australian Scholarships Group Friendly Society Ltd (ASG), and Monash University found that government education was the most expensive in regional NSW compared with other regions in the country.
In the Central West alone, parents who enrolled their children in government schools spent almost $74,000 over 13 years - 27.3 percent above the state average and 11 percent higher than Sydney. At the time, ASG's CEO Ross Higgens said that the cost of education had risen at more than double the rate of inflation over the previous decade.
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