Many Australians state that becoming a parent made them realise the significant role that community plays in their lives as well as the lives of their children.

Their definition of what community is naturally expand, as they look to provide their children with increased safety, greater bonding and a wider network of support from others. But for some Aussie children, community looks very different.

Hope In A Suitcase Founder Rachael Clancy tells us how we can make sure every child feels worthy, loved and hopeful.

“Hope In A Suitcase (HIASC) was founded in Newcastle, NSW and was a long-term dream of mine. It was sparked by the inability to sit back and watch another child enter foster care with only their belongings packed into a garbage bag,” explains Rachael.

“My family have been fostering children since I was 11, and having been involved in the system for over 22 years meant that we had welcomed thirty into our home.”

The 2022 Panadol Care Study revealed a majority (87%) of Australians believe that kids caring for others in the community is a critical step to uncovering self-identity.

“This was certainly true for me, as I have now become a foster carer myself after having seen far too many children arrive with a garbage bag – or less,” says Rachael.

“As a child this would always break my heart but, as an adult, it’s a whole different level of understanding with the problem of this ‘garbage bag’ becoming clear to me – ‘what message are we sending these children by packing their lives up into a garbage bag?’

“A majority (83%)* of Australians believe their child/ren are more supported if they are part of a community, so I knew I needed to do something and I began Hope In A Suitcase from my own home. HIASC aims to empower the lives of children entering out-of-home care by ensuring they receive a suitcase of new belongings to call their own. To send them a message that they matter, that they are loved, worthy and cared for by our community.”

Hope In A Suitcase Founder Rachael Clancy helps make sure every child feels worthy, loved and hopeful.

Rachael explains the effects of Hope in a Suitcase go beyond the direct impact of the resources they provide. “It provides children with a strong sense of self-worth, so they feel competent to cope with the basic challenges of life and feel worthy of success and happiness,” she says.

“In the beginning I leaned on my community and put an ad out on Facebook to ask if anyone had any suitcases or items they would like to donate. The work we do is only made possible by the generous support of the community with all items in each suitcase having been donated or funded by generous Australians.

“Suitcases are then packed by volunteer coordinators in NSW, Qld, Vic and Tas. We are so passionate about what we do, and we know every second of our time is worth the difference that it makes in a child’s life.”

All items in each child’s suitcase has been donated or funded by generous Australians.

“We receive feedback from child protection workers and health professionals stating the positive impact our cases have had on a young people. For some of these children, it’s the first time in their lives someone has done something for them; the first time they have owned an item or the first time they feel like they matter. In a world of turmoil, they for a moment can feel a sense of love and hope.

Together we can break the typical image of a foster child, make a difference and ensure that every child in the foster care system knows that they belong to a family and a community that values them.

Rachael was selected as a part of the Panadol Care Collective in 2021, an initiative that recognises those in the community who go above and beyond to care for others. If you know a deserving individual in your community who has an exceptional story of care, nominate them for the Panadol Care Collective.