Buddy Bags is an initiative created in 2007 by the Alannah & Madeline Foundation in response to continued demands to support children entering emergency care that are fleeing violent situations. Buddy Bags provide basic, essential items to thousands of children in emergency accommodation each year. Beyond providing basic items, they assist children to recover from violence by showing them a world where people care for them.
When a child enters an emergency refuge they often arrive with little more than the clothes they are wearing. Instead of possessions, they carry with them a range of confusing emotions from their exposure to trauma and violence. This is a sentiment Linda and Tanya from emergency refuge centre Emerge Support know only too well. We chatted with Linda and Tanya about how Buddy Bags help children to heal and recover from the traumatic effects of violence.
The children that come into their care have witnessed their mothers being abused both physically and/or verbally. "The experience of witnessing violence has long-term impacts on children," Tanya explained, "they need to be able to process what's happened, because usually the situation involves a big separation between two people that they really care about, resulting in the feelings of grief and loss within a child."
The children who arrive at Emerge Support are dealing with feelings of confusion and displacement as well as safety and trust issues. Buddy Bags are designed to aid children during this difficult time. Equipping refuge workers with Baddy Bags to hand to the children when they first arrive helps the children understand that they have someone they can talk to; someone they can go to. Establishing trust after violent incidents is crucial to recovering from trauma.
It's a great way to make contact with the child and get onto their level and witness their excitement. You see them walking around with the Buddy Bag on their back, even though they have nowhere to go."
"It is important because it helps to establish the trust and rapport from the beginning of the relationship with the child. They feel safe to come to you," Linda said. "I love to see the children's expressions when they get the Buddy Bags. There are so many bad things that have gone on in their lives and this is just one positive, and it's just given to them, and nothing is expected of them when you give them that. It's just for them."
Children escaping violent situations are forced to live in a very adult world. The picture of family violence does not feature children in the foreground. The picture of family violence places children in the background. That's why the work of people like Linda and Tanya is so important and why the Alannah & Madeline foundation continues to support these children through the Buddy Bags initiative. Since the program began, the Foundation has delivered Buddy Bags to more than 60,000 children across the country.
If you would like to help support a donation of a buddy bag to a child, please go here.
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