Sometimes, for various reasons, a child has to be taken into emergency care. When this happens, the Department for Child Protection and Family Support moves quite swiftly, and often there is no time for a child to pack clothes and belongings to take with them.
Belmont resident Erin Tan seeing the need, came up with the idea of providing what she calls a sunshine pack: a backpack specially designed for children who suddenly find themselves moved into emergency care.
Each sunshine pack contains special comforts like pyjamas, socks, a toothbrush and a soft toy, to get a child through the first 24 to 48 hours of a placement.
Last Thursday, Operation Sunshine represented by Erin and founder Leah Atkinson made their first delivery of 30 sunshine packs to the South Perth office of Foundations Care, a national fostering services agency.
“Foundations Care is the first organisation we’ve provided them to, which is exciting for us,
and the packs themselves are full of new things – they’re not pulled out of a box of second-hand stuff. Everyone loves getting new stuff. It’s so exciting, and fresh and new.” Leah said.
Operation Sunshine all began when Leah invited her friends on social media to contribute to a Christmas present drive for children in out-of-home care.
“I just said to my friends on Facebook, ‘Anyone wanna donate a present also?’ and the response was quite overwhelming’,” she said. “I ended up having to set up a Facebook page, separate from mine, just to organise all the Christmas presents. People I didn’t know from a bar of soap were putting money in my bank account, and asking me to buy presents for these kids.”
Leah realised the potential of people’s eagerness to donate to help kids and began to put together a committee of six friends and started Operation Sunshine.
“We don’t see ourselves as supporting children in care, because the foster carers and various service providers do that. Instead, the charity works to provide things beyond the necessities, in an attempt to minimise the sense of displacement, and the isolation, that comes with going into out-of-home care. Our catchphrase is ‘We make children happy when their skies are grey.”
Leah and Erin assembled the packs in Erin’s living room, with the help of Erin’s three-year-old daughter. Erin explained that they were for kids who don’t have their mummies and daddies around, and she was helping. She was really excited about putting all the teddies in the bags.
The first Sunshine packs were assembled with funds raised from a sausage sizzle.
And now the organisation is able to fundraise and accept charitable donations, it has plans for many more.
Leah stated that after raising funds, Operation Sunshine’s biggest challenge was getting people to understand what happened when children were placed in out-of-home care.
Once you talk about that, and talk about the circumstances that have brought children into out-of-home care, people want to get involved. We chose the name Operation Sunshine because we wanted to bring sunshine into those children’s lives. We provide that extra, that sunshine that children in out-of-home care may miss out on.
Anyone interested in finding out more about Operation Sunshine can go to www.operationsunshinewa.org