By DR JUDITH SLOCOMBE, CEO, The Alannah and Madeline Foundation
A few weeks ago we received a Facebook message from Carly, a young mother who had recently been forced to seek shelter at a refuge to escape her violent partner.
Carly and her nine-year-old son, Max, arrived at the refuge with nothing but the clothes they were wearing. She described it as a particularly traumatic experience.
“Arriving at the refuge was scary. You don’t know who you can trust. It is hard to believe you are ever going to be safe because you’ve just left such an unpredictable situation. You don’t know where to begin,” she said.
Carly’s story is a familiar one. For many years, staff at The Alannah and Madeline Foundation has heard stories of women and children fleeing violent situations with no time to gather any of their possessions.
It is a particularly daunting experience for children, who arrive in a strange and unsettling environment with none of the items they rely on to create the routine they need to feel safe.
Seven years ago The Alannah and Madeline Foundation created the Buddy Bags program to support children entering emergency accommodation. Buddy Bags are backpacks filled with essential items which are important to such as pyjamas, socks, underwear, toiletries, a book and a teddy bear.
It sounds like such a simple idea, but we know that receiving a Buddy Bag helps make a very traumatic experience a little easier for children.
They provide the basic items every child needs.
They act as a conversation starter to help refuge workers “break the ice” and commence the healing process.
And perhaps most importantly, they remind children there is someone out there who cares about them.
Today we will pack our 50,000th Buddy Bag. It is a bittersweet milestone, for while we know this represents 50,000 children who have received comfort when they need it most, it also highlights how many children are impacted by family violence.
We could not have achieved this milestone without the generosity of Target and its customers, who have raised almost $2 million through the ‘Bags for Bags campaign’ over the past six years.
With 60,000 children entering emergency accommodation every year, there is so much more work to be done, and that is why Target has stepped up its campaign, with the launch of a new fundraising tote bag, which will be available in Target stores around the country from tomorrow.
By purchasing one of the bags, you will be making a real difference to a child affected by violence.
As Carly said of the moment that Max received his Buddy Bag, “the feeling was one of relief. To see a smile on your child’s face, it’s great. He wasn’t scared anymore, he wasn’t angry, he wasn’t sad. It’s like a weight has been lifted off your shoulders.”
How you can help
You can support a child escaping violence by donating to The Alannah and Madeline Foundation (www.amf.org.au/donate) or purchasing a stylish new fundraising tote bag from your local Target (www.target.com.au/store-finder ) store today, with $1 from each sale going towards Buddy Bags.
About The Alannah and Madeline Foundation:
The Alannah and Madeline Foundation is a national charity protecting children from violence and bullying. The Foundation was established in memory of Alannah and Madeline Mikac, aged 6 and 3, who were tragically killed with their mother and 32 others at Port Arthur, Tasmania on 28 April 1996. For more information visit: www.amf.org.au or call 1300 720 747.