Do you shop at Coles for your groceries? Have you heard of the Sports for Schools program? It would seem that the Australian supermarket behemoth Coles has decided to act charitably of late, with primary school students the lucky recipients. Coles’ time-limited program (running September and October 2010 only) is offering shoppers the chance to help primary schools around the country acquire new equipment for their students. The gesture appears to be inspired by Australian atheletes’ recent Commonwealth Games endeavours in India, and is bound to encouraging more physical activity in a time of growing national concern over childhood (and adult) obesity statistics. While I am not a parent, I have been collecting these vouchers, and as the final date of issue draws near (October 31st) I have been carefully considering where best to dispense these vouchers. I concluded that helping an aboriginal school in a remote area with a small student population and limited resources was by far the best way for my points to be spent.
Last year Emma Sterling and I travelled with Slingsby, a local South Australian theatre company, touring as video technicians on the children’s theatre production WOLF. The tour reminded us how difficult it for schools in rural and remote parts of Australia to gather the necessary resources to offer their students the breadth of extra-curricular activity schools in major cities enjoy. While these students are generally more physically active than their city counterparts, their smaller student populations struggle to garner the financial support that schools in more affluent communities are able to for resources such as the Coles’ program is offering. Australians will know the range of additional disadvantages indigenous Australians face in navigating the two jarring worlds of indigenous and migrant Australia, so I went to the Coles Sports for Schools website to see which aboriginal schools were registered, so I could offer them my coupons.
Sadly, the majority of aboriginal schools in the state have not been registered to date. This is understandable in part, as many of these schools are more than a far cry from a local Coles supermarket. Indigenous communities like Yalata and Ceduna Area School could really benefit from a program like this, but since the nearest Coles to their communities is in Whyalla or Port Lincoln, over four-hundred kilometres is a long way for them to drive for a fist full of coupons and only the possibility of a few new footballs.
The program, while seeming generous, has a sigificant problem: waste. Points are redeemable in a way similar to frequent-flyer points or other loyalty schemes, so a school needs a minimum of 80 coupons before they can claim a package. The intervals between redeemable packages are also great, meaning that inevitably, at the end of the program, every school with have a surplus of useless vouchers. What if these surplus vouchers could be gathered and redistributed to the most wanting schools, in remote areas? Whether intentional or otherwise, the rural and remote school communities are far less likely to benefit from this scheme than the affluent suburban schools of our capital cities. It needn’t be this was though, so here’s my proposal.
After the final tally…
- all the registered schools should send their surplus vouchers to a single address (below)
- These surplus/waste vouchers could then be re-bundled into valid package sizes
- And can be redistributed to school in remote, rural and aboriginal communities
Making this work will take more than my single-handed efforts of course. We will need Coles to extend their deadline to allow for this extra processing, so we’ll have to write to them in appeal. We will also need to contact unregistered schools in these areas, and encourage them to register.
If you’d like to turn wasted opportunity into real community benefits for rural, remote and Aboriginal Australian school students, encourage your schools, post-tally to send their surplus coupons to:
Sports for Schools rural redistribution scheme
Flinders Partners, Mark Oliphant Bldg
Bedford Park SA 5042
In the meantime, I’m sending my coupons to an Aboriginal school in the Coorong called Raukkan. If you’d like to do the same, here’s their mailing address:
Raukkan Aboriginal School
Raukkan SA 5259
If you’ve read through this and you’re nodding in agreement with my proposal and intentions, please retweet, blog or share this blog post on Facebook with as many Australians as possible… let’s make Coles’ charitable gesture go as far as it possibly can!