By Amanda Murthy
A group of Year 12 Children, Family and Community (CFC) Mercedes College students have last month gifted backpacks to Operation Sunshine Western Australia (OSWA).
This year, the OSWA packs were delivered to Child Protection offices, out-of-home care and crisis accommodation organisations across WA and given to children and youth at the time of entering care.
The Year 12 CFC General students spent their final weeks of secondary school producing soft cuddle blankets and sourcing items such as underwear, socks, clothing, pyjamas, toiletries, reading books, stationery, toys and games to include in their age and gender appropriate packs.
Students from other classes also supported the project through donations of money and items.
Packs were then presented to Melisha Leggitt from OSWA on 16 October, who will distribute them to foster children across WA in the coming weeks.
Designed to enhance mental and emotional health and wellbeing, the Sunshine Packs are an ongoing initiative run by OSWA – a not-for-profit, volunteer-run, Perth based children’s charity organisation that seeks to provide support to children and young people in out-of-home care and crisis accommodation in WA.
Children Family and Community Teacher Sonya Roberts said this final project aligns with the school’s Mercy Service scheme.
“Packing these bags has given students an opportunity to put what we have learnt about social justice into action,” Mrs Roberts said.
It is Mercedes College’s mission for students to become real women of Mercy with a strong sense of the influence they can have in the world beyond Mercedes.
“I am so proud of the generosity and willingness of our students to help others in our community,” she added.
Children who are placed in state care have often been victims of abuse, or witness to parental abuse. So too have children who enter crisis accommodation escaping situations of family and domestic violence.
These children have the emotional stress of being disjointed from their families, dealing with the trauma of their violent and abusive circumstances, and coping with the isolation they experience after leaving their familiar home environments.
Year 12 student Sarah Ekholm expressed how thankful she was to be a part of the project.
“The packing of these backpacks for children going into foster care was such a special thing to be a part of, knowing that you are giving to others who are going through a very challenging time in their lives,” Ms Ekholm said.
“With the hope that through receiving a backpack, a young child’s day may be just a little bit brighter.
“Operation Sunshine is such an amazing organisation and I am so thankful for the opportunity to be a part of their work,” she added.
About 1100 children enter out-of-home care in WA each year. These children enter care through no fault of their own, in many cases having been removed from violent and abusive situations at little or no notice. Many children arrive with no belongings of their own and at times just the clothes they are wearing at the time of removal.
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