Did you know that when a child in crisis is apprehended from their home for their own protection, they often leave with only the clothes on their backs. If they are able to return to collect items, they are given a trash bag. This needs to change!
I Belong Bags was started last February in my daughter’s grade 1 classroom. It started out as a one-time project creating backpacks filled with essential & comfort items for children entering foster care. The goals was 25 backpacks. These little grade 1 kiddos created 18 and raised $700. Wow!
It’s been almost a year now and we are still growing! We now have storage space through Sentinel Storage and are working with different agencies within Calgary to create backpacks and end trash bags and have 3 committed volunteer staff including myself. I have my own foster care story and I have struggled with my own self worth always feeling small and insignificant in this life. Never in a million years would I have thought I had what it takes to make a difference like this, but here I am living my passion and doing something that matters so deeply to me.
WE HAVE 3 MAIN INITIATIVES AT I BELONG BAGS:
1. Supporting all children in crisis including foster care and providing them with a filled backpack to help them know they belong in this world as they embarking on the most challenging journey of their life.
2. Ending the use of trash bags as suitcases at the moment of crisis and apprehension in some cases. Being handed a trash bag to collect your things in this moment, sends a damaging psychological message to a child that cannot easily be undone. We are working to change this!
3. Advocating for children’s mental health and growth by using the backpack program in school classrooms as a teaching opportunity about empathy, compassion and what it looks like to be a supportive member of community. Children have the opportunity to connect with words like belonging, responsibility, rights and active citizenship and instill values such as compassion and empathy and caring for others. Students are able to have a lived experience from building these backpacks and it is super impactful on their sense of pride, self worth and ability to spark change and make a difference in the world.
HOW YOU CAN HELP!
As a grassroots initiative, we depend heavily on the generosity and donations from the community. As founder and president, this year for my birthday, I am asking my friends, family and anyone who connects to our mission, to donate to our cause. You can help a child know they belong in this world!
Money will go towards the following:
- Backpacks/small suitcases
- Toiletries: Toothbrushes, toothpaste, shampoos & conditioners, lotion, hair brushes, feminine products, deodorants etc.
- Small fleece/plush blankets
- Books/toys/coloring books/crayons/stuffy
- Gift Certificates: $25 Walmart for teenage age range
- Bulk purchase of compact foldable bags for CPS and social services to carry in their vehicles (to replace trash bags at point of apprehension)
**All items for Boys/Girls/ & Gender Neutral (Ages newborn – 18)**
OTHER MISCELLANEOUS ITEMS:
- Nonprofit/charity setup fees
- Insurance coverage on storage unit
- Printing costs: Banners, pamphlets etc.
- Angela Henders
- Karen Taylor
- Tracey Rieckers
- Michelle Aris