You know when you hear about something new and it just knocks you sideways in the best possible way? Something that just makes you think “why has no one thought of this before?” Well, I’m pleased to say I had one of those moments recently at a networking event when I met the founder of The Buddy Bag Foundation.
If you’ve not heard of this, allow me to enlighten you!
Each year, 48,000 children go into emergency accommodation in the UK. 48,000. A crazy amount isn’t it? Imagine now that many of these children have arrived with nothing. No spare clothes, toiletries, or creature comforts that most kids just take for granted.
This is where the Buddy Bag Foundation comes in. Over 1300 volunteers to date have helped to pack bags that are given to children entering emergency accommodation after leaving a violent home. Children who have been subject to or in a home of domestic or sexual abuse are given the assurance that someone cares, simply by being provided with one of these bags.
Inside each bag, across five age brackets from the ages of 0-16 they are provided with the essentials they desperately need. Pyjamas, underwear, a toothbrush – just simple things. A photo frame, a soft toy. A “buddy” for them.
As a Mum of a six year old, to say these facts and figures pull at the heart strings is a massive understatement. My son is lucky enough to have all of these things, doesn’t think twice about it and that’s the very reason why I knew I wanted to become involved.
Chatting to Karen Williams, the founder of the Buddy Bag Foundation, I learnt that she discovered a similar charity whilst on holiday in Australia and after realising the need for it in the UK, decided to take the plunge and set it up. Since then, over 12,000 bags have been packed and given to children, funded entirely by donations and time provided by volunteers.
I was lucky enough to speak to a domestic abuse support worker in one of these refuges recently. These guys see first hand just how much these bags mean to the children.
She explained that children and their parent arrive feeling fragile, bewildered, emotional. They are encouraged not to return home for their own safety, have often arrived with little to no belongings, a small child may have left their favourite toy behind, or worse, have never had such a toy for comfort.
The child can see how upset Mummy is, can see the marks on her face, have possibly witnessed or experienced things no child should ever have to.
They are shown to their room where they’ll be staying. It has a cosy bed and on that bed is a rucksack. The child is surprised that the bag is especially for them. To keep. Inside it has new pyjamas to wear and best of all there’s a toy. Later, dressed in those new pyjamas, cuddling that toy, they finally feel safe for the very first time.
The domestic support workers see the lasting impact these bags make for both the child and the parent – it makes a huge difference to see the security they bring, the smiles, the comfort. More importantly it often decreases the number of families who return to violent homes because they realise there are people who care out there, it doesn’t have to be like this.
So how can you help? Well, The Buddy Bag Foundation need people who can offer their time, their skills or are able to make a small donation. Your time can help by going along to one of the bag packing events that are held fortnightly in the Midlands, just a few hours can mean an amazing 180 bags can be packed ready to make their way to a child. Perhaps you can knit and can help make some soft toys? Or perhaps you can donate some cash? Each bag costs £25 and 100% of the monies raised go into the supply of Buddy Bags.
The Buddy Bag Foundation makes a small child realise that despite the things they may have seen and experienced, there are people who care, a safe place to be and they have a Buddy at last.