This Christmas, you can give a child fleeing violence the gift of love, and offer them security and warmth in a time of distress and trauma.
For many of us, the experiences these children have endured are unimaginable. The pain and loss they’ve experienced in their short lives is greater than anyone should ever know. Buddy Bags were created by the Alannah & Madeline Foundation as a way to start bringing comfort to children affected by violence.
Each Buddy Bag contains a teddy for reassurance and company, a book for entertainment and distraction, pyjamas, socks and underwear, their own pillow case, a toothbrush and toothpaste, a face washer, a photo album for keeping precious drawings and pictures in and the bag itself is a sturdy backpack that can also be used as a school bag.
Buddy Bags aren’t the solution to the problem of children experiencing or witnessing violence, but they are a start.
Earlier this year Zoe* and her husband took in two little ones, a girl of two and a little boy aged three.
It was a stinking hot day in February, about 38 degrees, and the children arrived on their doorstep wearing summer clothes. The girl was wearing a light summer frock and a nappy. The little boy had on a singlet and shorts.
One of them had on a pair of winter boots. The other had on sandals about two sizes too small.
That was all they had with them.
Thankfully the child protection worker had Buddy Bags.
“We didn't have nappies and other things that they needed, but with the Buddy Bags we had enough to actually get them into a pair of pyjamas,” says Zoe.
“There was also a teddy bear in the bag that we could give them that now actually belonged to them, as well as a story we could read them.
“We haven't fostered toddlers in a long time, but because of the Buddy Bags I had things that could immediately create a connection between me and those children.”
A member of the Alannah & Madeline Foundation team worked in child protection before she joined us.
She was once given the task of removing two children from a home known to be associated with serious crime, possibly involving firearms.
She was given five minutes – literally five minutes – to collect the two children and grab as much of the children’s belongings in that time as they could.
“We were just throwing these children’s things into garbage bags. And I have a really strong memory of walking to the car and saying to my colleague that we were taking their lives in garbage bags to the car,” she remembers.
Although the garbage bags contained some of the children’s own things, many children don’t even have that. Buddy Bags fill that gap, and give the child a moment of feeling loved and valued, in spite of all that may be going on in their lives.
Buddy Bags can help restore a sense of safety and security – which is one of the vital first steps to recovery.
Being taken from one or both of their parents, often as a result of violence, is the worst moment of these children’s lives. It’s terrifying for them. Having something of their own that actually gives them a bit of dignity is important. And can give carers a way to connect with the kids.
*Not her actual name
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