The impact of The Cinderella Project extends well beyond graduation ceremonies. It is truly remarkable how unconditional encouragement and positive mentorship can have a significant, long-term positive impact on a participant’s self-esteem and outlook on life. Everybody deserves to be treated with dignity and respect, and for our students, they experience this, and begin to believe that anything is possible, opening their eyes to the possibility of a new future, and the opportunities that they haven’t even dared to dream about before. This is the “Magic” of the Cinderella Project. One grateful mother wrote: “For my child, whom has had so many troubles in her youth, to even fathom that she would be alive and graduating, is amazing. The Cinderella Project was the icing on the cake for her and a much needed self-esteem boost.”
It may surprise you to know that the latest statistics show that 20% of Canadian children live below the poverty line, and despite the fact that free education is available in Canada, many of these children grow up with little formal education, many not completing high school. The reasons for this are complex, but most are related to living in poverty. The students we help lead lives of invisibility and marginalization, face bullying and other forms of violence. Our goal is to build self esteem, restore future dreams, show them that they are courageous, and valued in our communities, and to show them that despite the incredible struggles they face in their lives, on a daily basis, they CAN achieve the milestone of graduation, and be rewarded and celebrated for their perseverance in the face of such overwhelming adversity.
We assist students through a variety of means including our Boutique Day, a day of recognition and self-esteem boosting, annual Achievement Awards, and mentorship opportunities. This special day is held once a year in early spring. The Cinderella Project supports students who have overcome incredible financial, emotional and often physical obstacles to reach the achievement of graduation. Some examples of students accepted into The Cinderella Project include: students who are living in situations of abuse, neglect and violence at home and on the streets; new Canadians or refugees experiencing socio-economic hardship, and bullying in school; teen parents; those who are caring for parents (often with mental illness) or who are raising siblings; and, students who are chronically ill, physically or developmentally disabled. Students are referred to The Cinderella Project by their teachers, principals or social workers, then each application is reviewed by our executive committee. Boutique Day works to remove barriers and to celebrate our students’ amazing achievements. This is not a “hand-out”, but a “hand up”.
Students who attend Boutique Day are provided with one-on-one mentorship with a volunteer “Godmother or Godfather”, their choice of a graduation outfit, hair and makeup application, food (as our students often go hungry over the weekends), a goodie bag (filled with toiletries etc.) and formal photos to commemorate the day. With support and encouragement from The Cinderella Project they have successful completed high school and are now able to celebrate the graduation milestone with their peers. As one teacher wrote, “the fact that grad is now an option for [her students] and that they have the chance to feel like ‘all the other students’ is so important!”
The Cinderella Project provides several Achievement Awards each year. Most students referred to The Cinderella Project are not eligible for traditional scholarship funding, and the Achievement Awards are designed to recognize our students’ special needs. Past funding has helped students to attend school with childcare, to purchase tools for trades, and to secure adaptive technology for distance learning.
The Cinderella Project is a federally registered, 100% volunteer-based charity founded in Vancouver in 1999. Every penny raised goes to helping the students in the project. Our goal is to help break cycles of poverty by encouraging at-risk youth to stay in school and complete their high school education. We work to encourage and recognize outstanding young people from across the Lower Mainland who reach the milestone of graduation despite overwhelming adversity. To date we have assisted over 3000 deserving young men and women.