The image of foster kids stuffing their belongings into garbage bags inspired Laurier Brantford social work students to develop a new campaign, says associate professor Nancy Freymond.
“It started with an autobiography our class was reading called, “Three Little Words: A Memoir” by Ashley Rhodes-Courter,” said Freymond. “The author tells the story of having to move 14 times as a foster child and each time being handed a garbage bag to pack up her belongings. Those garbage bags became symbolic, representing her growing sense of worthlessness.”
When Freymond’s students learned from Brant Family and Children’s Services that garbage bags are still used by foster children in transition, they decided to act. They established Moving Us Forward, a campaign to collect knapsacks, duffel bags and suitcases and distribute them to children and youth in the foster care system.
“It’s important that as a community we take care of one another,” said Makela Figueiredo, one of the bachelor of social work students, who started the campaign. “Moving Us Forward is about working together to ensure we treat all kids with care and dignity.”
The travel bags received to date from Moving Us Forward are appreciated and are being used in myriad ways, said Leigh Savage of BFCS.
“Available luggage is a large gap in our system,” said Savage. “When the social workers found out about the student project, they were beyond thrilled. It’s been a difficult ongoing issue for them. They thought it was a fantastic solution.”
To keep up with demand and continue the program, Moving Us Forward is soliciting donations via Laurier’s new HAWKstarter platform.
Aimed at giving worthy causes a kick-start, HAWKstarter was launched on Giving Tuesday, Nov. 29, with an offering of seven projects that individuals can support. This inaugural group of projects has until Dec. 31 to reach its fundraising goals.
“The launch of HAWKstarter is exciting for Laurier as it provides an innovative and accessible way for our university community and our greater community to support and celebrate the important initiatives happening on our campuses every day,” said Rob Donelson, vice-president, development and alumni relations.
The seven projects cover a wide range of activities at the university, from helping faculty of education students teach teachers in Haiti to planting more trees in and around Laurier campuses.
Golden Mentors is another initiative that is specific to the Brantford campus.
Led by extracurricular student group Enactus, Golden Mentors aim to build bonds between Laurier students and local at-risk youth.
The program, created in partnership with Brantord’s Why Not Youth Centre, seeks to provide positive role models, and inspire youth to make positive choices. The group hopes to use funds to mount workshops on fundamental skills, trades, financial literacy and other areas that will set up youth for success.
“When creating this group over the summer, we decided to look for areas where we could make an impact in the lives of individuals in the community,” said Kwabena Gyetuah, co-president of Enactus.
“When we learned about the Why Not Youth Centre and what they do on a day-to-day basis, we instantly wanted to get involved.”
Donations to any of HAWKstarter projects can be made at www.HAWKstarter.com. All donations qualify for tax receipts.