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Toby gets his childhood back at Emerge
December 11, 2018
When six-year-old Toby* was given a backpack filled with books, toys, pyjamas and a teddy bear, the look on his face was priceless.
It was as though all his Christmases had come at once, according to Jessica, Emerge’s Manager of Integrated Family Services.
Toby was presented with a buddy bag, courtesy of the Alannah and Madeleine Foundation, on the day he arrived at Emerge’s refuge.
His immediate action was to tip it out on the floor and marvel at everything – even the toothbrush and toothpaste – before gripping the teddy bear tightly.
Like many of the children coming to Emerge, Toby was more used to being shouted at for playing with toys or reading a book, activities that most children take for granted. His dad hated noise and mess, and Toby lived in fear of his dad.
Toby is one of 98 children who Emerge supported last year. Each child who stays either at the refuge or in crisis housing receives their very own age-specific bag.
His story is like many of the stories that Emerge’s case managers hear from the children who take part in the variety of programs offered through the service, including the ground-breaking arts therapy program. All programs provide a safe place for children to talk about their feelings and help restore the bond between mothers and their children through play and, most importantly, it teaches mothers about the emotional impacts family violence has had on their children.
As his mum, Jane, explained, her main task was to get through each day.
“I was struggling to survive. I simply lost sight of his childhood. We couldn’t invite his friends over to play, we couldn’t afford books, and the idea of his playing with toys was out of the question,” she said.
The buddy bags are the first step to restoring confidence and childhood to each child.
Every family coming to refuge or crisis housing also receives new bed linen, doonas, pillows, and towels when they arrive at Emerge which they take with them when they leave refuge. Emerge relies on the generosity of supporters, like Next Steps Australia, to provide the linen package, taking away an immediate worry that families fleeing family violence have.
Emerge is always looking for bedding vouchers to give to women and children when they leave the refuge.
“Whilst a gift voucher may seem impersonal, the ability to go to a store and pick out the items you want is extremely empowering for the women accessing Emerge’s services,” Jessica said.
Bed linen vouchers are available from: Coles Myer, Big W, Target and Kmart.
Vouchers can be posted to:
Emerge Women & Children’s Support Network
c/- Beth Wallis
GPO Box 420
Melbourne VIC 3001
Emerge has been keeping families safe for more than 40 years and is the only specialised family violence service in Melbourne’s southern metropolitan area. It provides crisis accommodation, as well as outreach support to women and children still living at home.