Good-bye garbage bag

365 days of carrying a garbage bag has come to an end. Thank you to everyone who has offered support and words of encouragement over the past year. Even more importantly, thank you for making it possible to provide over 100 brand new suitcases for foster children/youth in the Vancouver area. One suitcase at a time, we've been able to support healthier transitions.

Dear Santa

Dear Santa,

If it is not too much to ask, all I want for Christmas is a brand new suitcase for every foster child and youth in British Columbia. Actually, if there is room in your sleigh, it would be pretty amazing if every foster child and youth in Canada received a new suitcase. Oh, and one more thing, can you also include some awesome experiences with the suitcases - like going to sleepovers, taking a trip or packing to go to university or college.

With gratitude and a high five,

The Garbage Bag Challenge

Handmade Luggage Tags

On Tuesday I was invited to share about The Garbage Bag Challenge with a class of Grade 4/5's at Ecole Pauline Johnson school. The students also shared with me about the 365 Give Project ( www.365give.ca ) that they are involved in, that provides the opportunity for them to create ways to give back to the community. It was truly inspiring to learn about what these young change makers are doing and the positive impact of their actions.

The students also created some lovely hand made luggage tags that will be able to be attached to some of the suitcases as they are distributed.

Thank You and Technical Difficulties

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On behalf of The Garbage Bag Challenge I want to say THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! to everyone who has reached out after yesterday's coverage online at CBC. The response has been truly amazing. It may take me a few days to respond to your emails, but I promise I will. I am looking forward to connecting with each of you who have taken the time to reach out - your support is appreciated.

I also know that there have been problems with the website contact form (thank you to those of you who let me know) I am not the most tech savvy person, but I am working on getting the problem fixed.

So much gratitude and love for all of you................

 

First Airplane Ride

The past week has been a whirlwind of activity. I left for Ottawa on Tuesday morning to attend the Adoption Council of Canada's Summit on the Urgency Around Permanency. My flight was at 7:00 am, yet I was wide awake at 3:00 am worrying about whether I would make it through security with no problems - actually it wasn't me I was worried about, it was my garbage bag. This was going to be the first time I had ever flown with my garbage bag - I forgot how exciting and nerve-racking facing the unknown can be. Surrounded by fellow travellers, especially a lot of business professionals dressed in suits with lap top and carry on bags, I nervously clutched my garbage bag. As I practiced how I would answer if questioned about my garbage bag, I had a fleeting moment of thinking I sounded absolutely ridiculous. Thankfully though I went through security with no problems, the security guard only pausing momentarily to read the sign on my bag. My garbage bag was off to yet another exciting adventure.

While at the conference I had the incredible experience of speaking alongside youth on a panel, sharing our lived experiences of the foster care system. It reminded me how together we are so much stronger and using our voice is a powerful tool in advocating for change. Although somewhat not prepared, I also was given the opportunity to share about The Garbage Challenge. The response was moving - audience members approached me to sharestories of foster children/youth moving in garbage bags. One particular story stands out and that is about a young woman who moved 31 times and more often than not, with garbage bags.

Evidently the conversation of foster children and youth having to move their belongings in garbage bags has been going on for quite sometime. Even more importantly, I want to point out and acknowledge that there are social workers and foster parents who go above and beyond to ensure that suitcases are provided. Yet the question still remains - how do we ensure that every single foster child or youth who enters the system is guaranteed a healthier transition through the provision of a suitcase? I am excited to share that through several connections at the Summit this will be further explored within British Columbia and hopefully a solution will be created. I will keep you posted..................

Also I want to say a huge thank you to the Adoption Council of Canada for the opportunity to attend the Summit and for all the amazing work they do. To learn more about their organization, you can check out there website at:  www.adoption.ca

 

 

 

 

 

Moving In Garbage Bags

   

 

 

THE PAST COUPLE OF MONTHS HAVE BEEN A BLUR OF ACTIVITY. ENDINGS AND BEGINNINGS. I AM IN THE PROCESS OF WRAPPING UP A JOB, WHILE HAVING STARTED ANOTHER. TUITION HAS BEEN PAID AND MY COURSES REGISTERED FOR THE START OF THE UPCOMING SCHOOL YEAR.YET THE BIGGEST CHANGE HAS BEEN HAVING TO MOVE. MOVING HAS ALWAYS BROUGHT ON A INNER STATE OF TURMOIL AND ANXIETY FOR ME THAT EVENTUALLY SPILLS OUT INTO MINI BOUTS OF CRYING AND OVERWHELM. IN THE DAYS LEADING UP TO MY MOVE I REFLECTED ON MY INTENSE EMOTIONAL REACTION TO MOVING AND EXPLORED THE REALITY THAT THIS MOST LIKELY STEMS FROM MY TIME AS A FOSTER CHILD.

I WAS IN AND OUT OF FOSTER CARE FROM BIRTH UNTIL THE AGE OF 3 AND HONESTLY HAVE NO RECOLLECTION OF THAT TIME IN MY LIFE. I RE-ENTERED THE FOSTER CARE SYSTEM WHEN I WAS 9. I REMEMBER ASPECTS OF THE NIGHT IN SUCH VIVID DETAIL, LIKE IT WAS YESTERDAY. I HAD ALREADY GONE TO BED AND MY ROOM WAS A ROSY GLOW FROM THE SUMMER SUN SETTING, THE FAINT SOUNDS OF CHILDREN STILL PLAYING FILLED THE OTHERWISE QUIET EVENING. IT WAS A NIGHT LIKE ANY OTHER NIGHT - UNTIL MY ADOPTED MOTHER CAME TO MY ROOM, ASKING ME TO COME DOWNSTAIRS. MY BARE FEET EMBRACED THE COOLNESS OF THE STAIRS AS I CLENCHED THE RAILING, ALMOST AFRAID TO LET GO. AT THE BOTTOM OF THE STAIRS I WAS GREETED BY TWO STRANGERS, WHO INTRODUCED THEMSELVES AS SOCIAL WORKERS. AFTER THE FORMAL INTRODUCTIONS , WHICH WAS FOLLOWED BY QUESTIONS, I WAS TOLD I WAS GOING TO NEED TO GO WITH THEM. 

I DON'T REMEMBER WHAT I WAS ABLE TO TAKE WITH ME THAT NIGHT OR WHAT IT WAS PACKED IN - BUT I CAN STILL FEEL THE HEARTBREAK AT BEING REMOVED FROM WHAT I HAD CALLED MY HOME. SADNESS, CONFUSION, AND ANGER ENGULFED THAT LITTLE NINE YEAR OLD GIRL. FEELINGS THAT I HAVE PACKED AND CARRIED AROUND WITH ME EVER SINCE, BAGGAGE THAT SEEMS TO HAVE NO OTHER PLACE TO GO.

A PART OF ME WANTS TO SAY THAT AS A  FORMER FOSTER KID WITH 15 YEARS IN THE SYSTEM, THAT MOVING GOT EASIER, YET IT NEVER REALLY DID. YOU SEE, EVEN TO THIS DAY I  STRUGGLE TO MAKE SENSE AND PEACE WITH EVER HAVING HAD TO ENTER THE FOSTER CARE SYSTEM TO BEGIN WITH. ALL THE BAD STUFF DOESN'T SEEM TO COMPARE WITH THE ACHING SENSE OF NEVER REALLY HAVING A PLACE TO CALL HOME, AS WHAT HOME WAS SUPPOSE TO BE CAN QUICKLY AND WITHOUT WARNING, VANISH INTO THIN AIR. 

SO TODAY WHEN I MOVE IN GARBAGE BAGS, I KNOW THAT I AM ABLE TO DO THIS OUT OF MY OWN PERSONAL CHOICE. YET I AM MAKING THIS CHOICE WITH A PURPOSE. I WANT TO REMEMBER WHERE I HAVE COME FROM AND REMEMBER THAT THOUSANDS OF FOSTER CHILDREN AND YOUTH IN CANADA, EXPERIENCE THE REALITY OF MOVING THEIR BELONGINGS IN GARBAGE BAGS, WHEN THE ENTER FOSTER CARE OR ARE EVEN MOVED TO ANOTHER FOSTER HOME. MAYBE, JUST MAYBE ONE DAY, WE WILL FIND A WAY TO ENSURE THAT EVERY FOSTER CHILD AND YOUTH IS GIVEN THE OPPORTUNITY TO EXPERIENCE A HEALTHIER TRANSITION IN MOVING BY BEING PROVIDED WITH A BRAND NEW SUITCASE.