Plymouth children who have to leave everything that’s familiar to go into care will now be given a My Journey bag full of items to make the experience easier.
Hand knitted toys, books, pyjamas and toiletries will be among the items packed into a special rucksack they can call their own throughout their care journey.
It’s thanks to a partnership between the children’s charity Barnardo’s and Plymouth City Council, who together deliver Plymouth Care Journeys, and the Buddy Bag Foundation, a charity that has been providing bags of comfort and inspiration since 2015.
Children who are taken into care may have to leave their home with nothing, or just have a plastic bag with a few basic items. The idea of the My Journey bags is to provide a child with their own personal bag full of essential and comforting items which they can keep with them, helping them to increase their sense of self-worth, security and belonging.
Jemma Flower, Barnardo’s Children’s Services Manager with Plymouth Care Journeys, explained.
She said: “These bags have the potential to make a real difference to the experience of many children and young people during those first few days when they enter care. Coming into care for the first time can be extremely daunting and emotional, we hope these bags will provide children and young people with some comfort and distraction.
“Each bag was packed with love and care and will be personalised to each individual young person with a handwritten card,” she said.
Care experienced young people from the city joined a team from Barnardo’s and Plymouth council to pack 200 My Journey bags and explained what having such a bag would have meant to them.
One said: “It would have made a massive difference if I came into care with supplies, I had nothing with me. It would make young people think people do care and don’t want to see us struggle.”
Another said: “‘I think this is an amazing idea and will really help young people who may be coming to a strange home with little or nothing. Having something they can use or play with that may be a comfort to them may help them feel more welcome.
“It’ll give them something to do while they settle in, especially if they wish to stay in their room while they get used to their surroundings.”
The team travelled to the Buddy Bags base in Sutton Coldfield to pack the rucksacks. The foundation is run entirely by volunteers and has won the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service. Volunteers have packed more than 51,000 bags since 2015.
Founder Karen Williams OBE was inspired to set up Buddy Bags after coming across a similar scheme in Australia.
Plymouth children and young people will receive their items packed into Madlug bags. The Madlug (Make a Difference Luggage) foundation provides a free travel bag for a child in care for every bag purchased by a member of the public. Bags can also be gifted and the charity gives care experienced young people job training and entrepreneurial opportunities.
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