A unique program that supports families in need has helped more than 170 local kids to build stronger connections with their school and access essential resources to support their education.

The Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal (FRRR) runs the Back to School (BTS) program, a national initiative which provides $50 vouchers to families who are doing it tough in rural, regional and remote communities.

Supported by Scenic World’s philanthropic program, Scenic World Shared, the BTS program assists families to purchase essential school items such as books, stationary and uniforms to reduce stigma for children living in economic disadvantage.

BTS also helps to raise awareness of community services and strengthen connections between parents and school support networks to improve outcomes for school aged children.

In a first for the Blue Mountains community, over 170 Target vouchers were distributed to local children in 2018, with $8,000 in vouchers funded by Scenic World and distributed by not-for-profit organisation Thrive Services.

Thrive Services Executive Officer, Angelique Sasagi, explained that the Back to School program is carefully crafted to ensure vouchers reach those who need it most.

“There are many families who are struggling in our region and we made every effort to make sure vouchers were delivered in a discrete nature to those in need,” she said, adding that feedback from families was overwhelmingly positive.

“From school uniforms to colouring pencils, the vouchers have helped to break down financial barriers for parents and help students with feelings of inclusion, especially at a young age.”

BTS vouchers were distributed to four community organisations and 11 schools, including Katoomba High School which is a strong supporter of the program.

Katoomba High School Wellbeing Coordinator, Benjamin Kovari, said many recipients have demonstrated improved outcomes following their voucher. He explained that some students had improved their attendance and demonstrated a stronger connection to school.

Scenic World Managing Director, Anthea Hammon, applauded the Thrive Services team for their tireless efforts to engage with the community and distribute the vouchers to students and families who needed them most.

“It’s a privilege to work alongside partners like Thrive Services and FRRR who bring such dedication, enthusiasm and passion to supporting our vibrant community.”

“We’re proud to have the opportunity to support the next generation in new ways and we look forward to continuing our support of the BTS program in 2019 and beyond,” said Ms Hammon.

Pictured from left: Laura Collins, Thrive Services; Imelda Eames, Katoomba High School; Jaime Mack, Thrive Services; Benjamin Kovari, Katoomba High School.