As students are heading back to school, it is time for us to reflect on the kind of children we would like to bring up.
Children are future citizens who will provide leadership to shape our society. While as parents we may focus on the academic success and future careers of our own children, we should also care about raising up a generation that is responsible, positive, industrious, caring, compassionate, and willing to contribute.
As a community, we have to provide the best possible opportunities and resources to support all children in our society to develop these important values.
According to the 2011 census, about 18 per cent of our population (32,000 persons) in Richmond is aged 16 or under. In our schools, there are about 22,000 students in 38 elementary schools and 10 secondary schools.
These are the children whom we have to provide adequate nurturing and support for their optimum growth.
While all children are born with great potential, not all of them are able to develop to their fullest due to all kinds of challenges and obstacles.
For example, recent studies show that more than 30 per cent of Richmond children under the age of 17 live in lowincome families, which is higher than the provincial average.
As it is being said in a document on child poverty in Richmond, our concern is not whether 30 per cent or 10 per cent of children live in poverty, but that all children should be given the same opportunities to grow and develop.
Children living in poverty are often more vulnerable because there are more barriers between them and the resources they need.
The research data obtained from the Early Development Instrument (EDI) and Middle Years Development Instrument (MDI) conducted by UBC's Human Early Learning Partnership project has identified that in certain areas in our community there are high percentages of children who are vulnerable on one or more scales. It is necessary to expand programs, such as the recreation fee subsidy, to assist more children who cannot afford to participate in community activities.
Perhaps it is fortunate that we have a strong partnership in Richmond, consisting of the City, Richmond School District, Vancouver Coastal Health, the RCMP, business community, community agencies, faith groups and so on, working collaboratively to meet the challenge of providing the best possible opportunities for all children.
The city is committed, as reflected in its new Social Development Strategy (www.richmond. ca/socialplan), to provide the vision, leadership, and social investment to support Richmond children, youth and families.
This is an action-oriented document as concrete short, medium and long term action plans from 2013-2022 are identified and will be monitored for their implementation.
Furthermore, as one of its term goals for 2011-2014, City Council is committed to the development of an updated youth strategy to address the needs and build on the assets of youth in the community.
However, that is not to say that the city can provide all things to all children in the community. The senior levels of government have continuously passed additional responsibilities onto municipalities without providing resources.
It is a serious challenge for the city to fill the gaps being left behind. There are also competing priorities for the resources that the city can allocate.
But I still believe firmly that every small step we take to invest in our children today will pay back in a big way tomorrow.