By Danielle Kutchel
For kids in crisis, time is of the essence – and a new innovation by Backpacks 4 VIC Kids could see those children receive the essentials they need sooner through its new Tiny Sites.
The Cranbourne-based not for profit has been providing ‘ME Packs’, backpacks filled with essentials like clothes, stationery and toiletries, to kids since April 2015. The packs are usually distributed on request to police, child protection workers and others who come into contact with kids in crisis.
However, Tiny Sites are set to change this by making the packs easier for workers to access when they need them.
Shipping containers stocked with the packs and other essentials like cots and strollers will be placed at strategic locations, and relevant agencies will be provided with a code to access the container at any time of the day or night, so that the children in their care can be presented with the resources they need in a timelier manner.
The idea came about after Backpacks 4 VIC Kids founder, Sally Beard, received feedback from workers at agencies that some kids were missing out on the vital items.
“Children, especially sibling groups, were often spending days or weeks at a motel with one or two child protection workers because it would take that much time for them to find a carer who either had the nursery items or had the resources to go and buy the items. That led to a lot of sibling groups being split up, so after they’d just been torn away and lost everything they know, they lost each other, which breaks my heart,” Ms Beard says.
She believes the Tiny Sites are the first of their kind in Australia.
The first container is currently in Dandenong South, and Ms Beard says she is applying for a permit so it becomes active.
She hopes to place it somewhere in Dandenong close to the family violence and child protection authorities, and close enough to Backpacks for Vic Kids’ headquarters to easily restock the container.
In conjunction with the Tiny Sites project, the charity has reopened its op shop on Camms Road to raise funds to enable it to create more Tiny Sites and even commence new programs, like providing beds and furniture to carers.
Meanwhile, other sources of support are coming on board too.
Clothing recycler SCRgroup recently held a fundraiser for the charity, supported by Pakenham Central Marketplace.
Pakenham Central Marketplace purchased a number of copies of picture storybook, Friends of Our World, authored by SCRgroup National Executive Alexis Todorovski, and sold these at a special children’s activity day at the shopping centre with 100 percent of proceeds donated to Backpacks 4 VIC Kids.
In total, $1,057.05 was donated to the charity.
Ms Beard said the partnership vital to enable her not-for-profit’s work to continue.
“Around 4,000 children enter out-of-home care placements in Victoria each year. Without wonderful partnerships like this one with SCRgroup and Pakenham Central Marketplace, Backpacks 4 VIC Kids would struggle to give urgently needed resources to these local children,” she says.