Annabel arrived clutching her mum’s hand, her eyes wide and fearful, and her hair still dripping.
In her mum’s other hand was an ordinary green rubbish bag containing the few things they were able to grab before they fled from the flood that swept through their home.
It was wet and it was cold, and Annabel had none of her own toys or clothes, except what she was wearing.
They were visited by an emergency worker who handed Annabel a Buddy Bag.
Annabel’s saddened little face lit up. From feeling like she’d lost every special thing she owned, she suddenly had a little backpack of her own, clean new pyjamas and underwear, a teddy and some activities to play with.
The Buddy Bag Annabel was given was a special, personalised bag filled with useful and comforting items for children experiencing violence, trauma or crisis.
They’re not just bags of goodies. New, clean, carefully selected items of their own show children they matter and reassure them that someone cares. And that can be the first step on their road to recovery.
When you donate to help provide Buddy Bags, you’ll be putting a bag filled with love and comfort into the arms of children experiencing trauma.
The Buddy Bag itself is a backpack. That’s useful, because kids who’ve fled might get up the next day and unless the carer or where they've gone has something for them to put their stuff in, they'll go to school that day with their lunch in an Aldi or a Coles bag, which just rubs in the shame of being different and not having something that's similar to their peers.
One 4-year-old girl was given a ladybug backpack as her Buddy Bag. “Her face absolutely shone,” the refuge worker told us. “She had just started kinder and we’d see her trot off to kinder every day from the refuge, proudly carrying her Buddy Bag”.
Every bag has a teddy, which differs depending on the age and sometimes the gender of the child. (All kids need something to cuddle.)
Every child receives a toy and book. It gives them something to focus on that is not related to whatever the trauma or trouble they are facing. It can give them a few moments of peace – and maybe a chance for mum or dad to draw breath and begin recovering too.
The bags are full of all sorts of useful things, like a toothbrush and toothpaste, clean underwear, new pyjamas, a hairbrush and a face washer.
One of the loveliest items is the gorgeous crocheted or knitted beanie, carefully handmade in individual sizes and patterns by KOGO’s (Knit One Give One) volunteer knitters. They’re a wonderfully personal touch.
Most Buddy Bags go to refuges where children have fled family violence and may have had little time to grab their things.
One of the refuge workers told us about a young boy who arrived with his dad. The boy was traumatised and even at age 10, refused to sleep on his own. But a gorgeous shaggy teddy he discovered in his Buddy Bag was enough to persuade him that the comfort of his teddy would see him through the night.
Your kind gift this Christmas can put a Buddy Bag filled with love and comfort into the arms of children experiencing trauma and start them on their road to recovery.
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