Building backpacks: A tangible demonstration of God's love

One of the great joys in my job is getting to meet many of World Vision's great church partners. I met one of these church heroes at a Renton, Washington, church. His name is Alex.

He told his congregation that God had planted them right in the midst of people whom they wouldn’t reach if they didn’t get out of the church pews.

So, Alex walked across the street and introduced himself to members of the staff at Northwood Middle School. This began a partnership with the school in which people from the church mentor students, and the church also hosts a year-end celebration of the teachers.

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'The gospel in action'

Alex dreamed of a partnership that would create a better life for children.

“What I began to recognize was that the spiritual community has a mandate to feed children’s hearts and build moral character," he says. "The education community has a mandate to build their minds and their futures and their disciplines."

He continued, "And parents have that nurturing and all the practical care-giving kinds of things, so it’s really like an automatic partnership if we would just learn to work together. It’s like the gospel in action.”

The church got involved with World Vision. World Vision provides hands-on volunteer opportunities for churches, community organizations, and corporations through its kits programs. World Vision’s SchoolTools program allows people to fill a backpack with school supplies for children whose parents struggle to provide these materials.

Pastor Alex and his wife. Alex encourages members of his congregation to take an active role in the community as a means of showing God's love.

The partnership with World Vision has proved a huge boon to a church that’s on fire to help out in the community. They were one of the first churches to build Caregiver Kits.

“We’re the guinea pigs,” Alex says. “But we love it.” He adds that church members can’t wait for the next event -- and that activities like the kit builds are important.

“We need kind of a plug-and-play opportunity. We can come up with some stuff ourselves, but we don’t have the resources," he says.

"So having World Vision say, ‘Hey, here’s something. School, church, here you go, boom.’ Perfect…it’s changed our church."

The need for school supplies

Many teachers attempt to fill the gap for these children who often come to school without the essential supplies. According to a 2010 study by the National School Supply and Equipment Association, teachers spent $1.33 billion of their own money to provide supplies for their classrooms.

Having access to these new backpacks means a lot -- not only to the students, but their teachers as well.

“The things we can do [to] provide that level playing field for kids and to give them access is really important,” says Colleen, principal of Northwood Middle School.

Often, teachers will approach the school counselor when they see that one of their students is in need. Then, the school can quietly pass along a backpack full of supplies, all from World Vision, to these students.

Too often, families try to get through hard times on their own. They have a sense of shame that they can’t provide for their children. Colleen says she believes the number of students in need of free or reduced lunches is under-reported at her school because of this feeling of shame -- of not wanting to stand out.

But when teachers can provide backpacks to the students, they see a difference. These students sit a little taller and prouder in their seats. “They have their materials and they have a way to organize their life, and they feel like they fit in with everybody else,” Colleen says.

Volunteers from Northwood Middle School and Renton Christian Center work together to build backpacks for children in need within their community. (Photo: Laura Reinhardt/World Vision)

Big results from partnership with World Vision

Being involved in these hands-on activities has been transformational for the congregation at Renton Christian Center.

“They recognize [that] for many of them, for decades they’ve been sitting in a pew, and I call them fat and happy. It’s not healthy. They say now that we’re actually giving something away and doing something with World Vision with the schools," says Alex.

"They [say], ‘I feel like a real Christian now. Like, this is what I’m supposed to have been doing the whole time.’”

Ultimately, Alex hopes that these acts of kindness will help children realize something: “There is a God who is more generous, more kind, and more of a provider than they could ever imagine.”

By providing a hands-on way for churches and community organizations to get involved, World Vision is helping children experience that love firsthand.

Want to get your church, company, or group involved in bringing help and hope to children in need right here in the United States?

Learn more about World Vision's SchoolTools program -- and consider signing up for a kit build!

Can't host a kit build right now but still want to help? Make a donation to help provide a backpack and school supplies to a child in need.


    God bless

    Our church is currently doing an outreach service for the community, every year we ask our congregation to financially help to buy bookbags and supplies for the needy in our community. I was wondering if there was a website that you may be able to help me with to obtain bookbags or supplies at a very low cost.

    thank you

    In the past, my husband and I have found backpacks at Walmart on clearance, for $3-$5 each. This is usually after the back to school season ends. When we found them, we would stock up to donate. I know each Walmart is a little different, so keep an eye out when you visit a different store.

    Denise, it's so nice of you to purchase backpacks to donate. Thanks for being so willing to give!

    - Lindsey, WV Staff

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