At Stripey Stork we are incredibly proud we can bring projects and campaigns to life throughout the year in addition to responding to the requests for help we receive every day. These projects come to life through identifying an unmet need within our community.
The idea for Stork Sacks came in 2017 when Carolyn Thom from Their Voice came to speak to our volunteers about her work supporting women and children rescued from human slavery and sex trafficking. We were moved to hear about the work they do and pleased that Stripey Stork had been able to help with essential clothes and equipment. We asked if there were any other ways we could help and the ‘Stork Sacks’ project quickly came to life. Carolyn explained about the transient nature of life for these families – moving from place to place and the need for the children to feel some security. A new rucksack filled with age-appropriate items that was theirs to keep would mean so much.
We discussed the potential contents of the bags – toiletries, books, toys, stationery – and agreed that these could be a mix of new and preloved items. Two of our amazing volunteers agreed to lead the project and made a plan to secure 100 bags for Their Voice.
What we decided was needed in the bags
We were able to kick off the project in January 2018 thanks to Raven Housing Trust awarding us a grant to secure additional office and storage space to store seasonal items and run projects and campaigns like this one.
Working in partnership
We aimed to fill 100 bags initially but then we spoke to some of our partners to see if they could help make the funds stretch further. They were all keen to support this special project:
Canon UK in Reigate helped with printing and supplied pens.
Esure in Reigate provided money for some of the stationery.
Sals Shoes had been donated some brand new water bottles which they very kindly shared with us, as well as helping with name labels for the bags themselves.
Horley Infant School used their suppliers to help us get the clocks, colouring pencils and rulers at a discounted rate.
We also made full use of lower cost items bought at In Kind Direct to make the best possible use of funds.
All of these cost savings and donations meant we were able to prepare an amazing 120 bags!
Packing the bags
Once we had all the items we held a packing session where a team of volunteers worked together and Carolyn came along to talk to them about how useful the bags would be, sharing the circumstances of many of the families.
Such sad and distressing stories, but a common situation is for young children to be brought into the country for the purpose of benefit fraud, and frequently, women escape persecution in their home country, coming to the UK and find themselves forced into the sex industry.
Going out with the bags is a feedback card for the children, which, recognising that they are young and that English may not be their first language, use emoticons to allow them to express what they think of the bags. The feedback so far has been moving:
A 9 year old girl, when presented with her rucksack, sat going through everything, shaking with excitement. She couldn’t believe the items were hers to keep, forming a particular affection for a simple fidget spinner. She sat quietly once she had gone through the contents, simply declaring, “I love it.”
On her feedback form she said “I have a lovely gold fidget spinner, and besides that, my loom bands. I love everything.” On the card, she drew a girl with a heart on her face.
A 3 year old was completely overwhelmed with the contents of the bag, not even able to put into words how she felt. She made lots of excited noises and her face was full of joy as she had never had any toys of her own.
A 7 year old was working through a Peppa Pig book included in her bag, completing the activities. On the feedback form, she drew a princess and said: “I love my Peppa Pig book”.
One Mum was blown away by the project, and the kindness shown to them by being given the bags. She was fascinated by the maps of the UK, this country she had been brought to but knew so little about. She was interested to learn about the landmarks and tourist attractions such as Stonehenge, so it helped to build her knowledge of where she was living.
The children are all wearing their rucksacks proudly, and are absolutely delighted with them.
We are very grateful to everyone who helped us with this project, from the funding to the practical on the ground assistance, as you can see from the feedback above, it is changing lives.