Wollongong mum gives stationery – and disadvantaged students – a second chance

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Natalie Wall after presenting backpacks to
Natalie Wall (left) after presenting backpacks to Supported Accommodation and Homelessness Services Shoalhaven Illawarra.

A Wollongong woman is urging people to declutter their desks these school holidays and donate gently used stationery items to disadvantaged students.

Second Life Stationery founder Natalie Wall, a member of the parish of St Brigid’s, Gwynneville, was preparing for the annual back-to-school shopping trip in January for school supplies for her children when she realised the family had more than enough on hand.

“Then I thought, ‘I wonder how many other people in my social group have got lots of stationery just sitting around in drawers like I do: pencils, pencil cases, backpacks that they don’t like’.”

Natalie gathered excess stationery items from her own home then approached her friends for donations.

She was determined to see this desk drawer detritus make a difference.

A former nurse and nursing educator, Natalie saw that a lack of basic essentials could be a barrier to education.

“I’ve seen the issues there are with people who can’t afford the basic necessities when it comes to education, and the impact that it has on them achieving,” she said.

Natalie’s sister-in-law teaches at a school with a large proportion of disadvantaged students.

“She is constantly telling me how some of them come without pencils and notebooks. You can’t learn if you don’t have the right equipment.

“It was primarily that motivation, to improve the educational outcomes for disadvantaged families.”

Natalie was inspired by the oft-quoted saying of St Mary MacKillop, ‘Never see a need without doing something about it’.

“That is really important to me.”

Backpacks full of supplies ready to be donated.
Backpacks full of supplies ready to be donated.

A secondary outcome of the project was reducing waste going to landfill, she said.

Second Life Stationery has 10 drop-off points from Newcastle to Nowra, and almost 1000 members on Facebook.

The organisation collects gently used backpacks, pencil cases, pens, pencils, crayons, textas, pencil sharpeners, glue sticks, erasers, scissors, rulers, exercise books, lunch boxes and bags, drink bottles, library bags, and calculators, which are cleaned and packed for children in need.

“We make sure things look good for the kids, because they do deserve nice things.”

Second Life Stationery has distributed more than 60 backpacks of donations through SAHSSI (Supported Accommodation and Homelessness Services Shoalhaven Illawarra), the Homeless Hub in Wollongong, Care South, and Port Kembla Hospital rehabilitation ward.

Visit secondlifestationery.com.au for more information.