Poverty is not pretty

Kidscan ambassador

Poverty is not pretty, says KidsCan ambassador Verity Brogden. She should know. She grew up that way.

“Going through poverty as a kid you feel invisible – like no one sees you and no one cares about you.”

Brogden says often people don’t want to acknowledge disadvantaged children exist. They’re trying to pretend there’s no such thing as poor people, she explains.

The problem is, it makes those children feel like they’re “not worth much”.

Brogden says she wants to be a voice for “kids in poverty”.

“Not enough of us speak out about living through it, so then we’re just thought of as statistics. And it’s easier to ignore it, and to pretend it’s not happening.

“But real children are suffering. I want people to see my face, because if I can help people become more aware of the issue, if I can help children out of the position I was in, it means I didn’t suffer for nothing.”

Living in poverty means you are always in survival mode, trying to figure out how you’re going to get your next meal. You’re hungry.

“We survived on $1 loaves of bread, noodles and cheap junk food. Once my sister made me a birthday cake from a stack of dry Weet-Bix with icing poured on top.”

“You know you’re different from everyone else. You get bullied because you don’t look the same. You’re a bit scruffy, a bit smelly from not being able to wash as often. Your clothes won’t be as new and as expensive as other kids. Your teeth are bad. It’s pretty lonely.”

Feelings of fear and uncertainty were coupled with moving a lot and horrible environments.

“We’d get sick. We never had other kids over because it was so bad.”

School was Brogden’s safe space.

“It was warm, and there was power. And I knew I was always going to be fed. Sometimes the only food I’d get a day would be at school.”

She was also given her first pair of brand-new shoes at school. KidsCan provided them.

“It’s extremely hard to escape the cycle of poverty. It feels like the system traps you in it,” Brogden says.

Moving to live with an aunt changed her life. For the first time she had constant meals, a roof over her head and a stable education.

She flourished.

She ran a full marathon. Was head girl of her school. Went to Youth Parliament and to Fiji on a future leader’s programme.

Is now at university in her third year studying politics.

She’s pleased she’s a KidsCan ambassador. The New Zealand charity provides food, shoes and clothing to schools and early childhood centres.

She’d like to be a politician.

If she were, she’d “implement a minimum standard of living for children, across all aspects of their life, like housing, food quality, and education.”

“Every child deserves the chance that I’ve had.”

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News category: New Zealand.

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