Vouchers worth $50 are going a long way in Border schools

PARENTING children with disabilities turns life “upside down” and anything helpful is welcome, even a $50 voucher which may not seem like much in the wider world.

That's the opinion of the principal of Albury's Aspect school, Jo Gillespie, who oversees 72 students with autism.

She was referring to a program which has seen her students and hundreds of others across the southern Riverina as well as North East Victoria benefit from $50 back-to-school vouchers. The entitlements are part of a national program run by the Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal and administered by the Border Trust from Corowa to Corryong.

Beneficial relationship: Voucher donors Darren and Julie Eddy and the principal of Albury's Aspect school Jo Gillespie.

Beneficial relationship: Voucher donors Darren and Julie Eddy and the principal of Albury's Aspect school Jo Gillespie.

The trust, as part of its May is Giving Month promotion, is encouraging more donors to join the scheme which has seen 5549 vouchers, worth $277,450, distributed across the Border since 2005.

Among those who have helped for the past three years are Albury funeral directors Darren and Julie Eddy.

“Lots of people have their hands out and there are a lot of worthy causes, but the thing that stood out with this was that it was in our region and it affected our kids,” Mr Eddy said.

Mrs Eddy added: “We have our own children, we know how hard it is for families and we wanted to give everyone the best chance because if they've got the right stuff they've got confidence.

Soft landing: Kinder student Isabelle Thornton, 5, with Aspect principal Jo Gillespie on a beanbag bought as part of a school donation program.

Soft landing: Kinder student Isabelle Thornton, 5, with Aspect principal Jo Gillespie on a beanbag bought as part of a school donation program.

“If you're in a position, $50 is not a lot to make a big difference to someone else.”

Mrs Gillespie said that with her school's parents paying weekly fees of $100, the vouchers were crucial and had paid for drink bottles, backpacks, uniforms, shoes and a beanbag.

“It's about not making them feel as though they've got their hand out,” Mrs Gillespie said.

“If you've got a young person with a disability your life is upside down anyway, you've got an added stress level there.

“This alleviates a stress they don't need in their lives.”

Mrs Gillespie said the support for the school vouchers reflected well on the Border.

“I think it shows this community very much has ownership of one another,” she said.

“It's a very civic-minded community.”

However, Border Trust executive officer Glenys Atkins said demand far vouchers far outstripped supply.

There were 1134 vouchers sought by primary, secondary and special schools this year and 476 distributed to 68 which registered for the program.

Donors, such as the Eddys, covered the costs for 236 of them.

More information about the program is at bordertrust.org.au.