Volunteers bring ray of sunshine into lives of children in care

Venetta Atkinson, Casey Grant, Kylie Lynn, Leah Atkinson and Kristina Hammond from Operation Sunshine WA.  Picture: Jon Hewson d485137
Venetta Atkinson, Casey Grant, Kylie Lynn, Leah Atkinson and Kristina Hammond from Operation Sunshine WA. Picture: Jon Hewson d485137

AS someone who has experienced it first-hand, Operation Sunshine WA founder Leah Atkinson knows the importance of making children in care feel valued.

Mrs Atkinson spent time in out-of-home care “on and off” and said they were some of her most fond childhood memories. Now she is ensuring the current generation of children in care receive the same level of love she was given.

The Maddington resident is president of Operation Sunshine WA, which sends out care packages, or ‘sunshine packs’, to children in group homes, residential care or foster care. The packs contain a backpack, pyjamas, underwear, books, pencils, toothpaste and a toothbrush, with recipients also receiving age-specific items, such as deodorant for the older kids.

Mrs Atkinson said knowing the packs made a difference in the childrens’ lives was a special feeling.

“I have that linked experience and I know I didn’t have anything like these packs. The packs were an idea of committee member Erin Tan and straight away I knew this was something we wanted and needed to do,” she said.

Mrs Atkinson said the feedback they received from families was overwhelmingly positive.

“We’ve had feedback from one carer with two young children in care both besotted with these packs; the little girl would not leave house without her backpack,” she said.

“I actually saw children at a park with their carers and both had their backpacks. Each one had to have all the stuff in their bag and became quite distressed if someone took something out of their bag.”

“Ownership is what it’s all about, giving them that sense of ownership, giving something they’ve never had, all brand new and showing they are valued.”

Operation Sunshine WA is looking for volunteers to help out with a packing day in Huntingdale on August 19. It is hoping to create 144 packs and has also asked for financial donations to ensure it can continue to provide sunshine packs.

For more information on the sunshine pack session or the organisation, visit the website at www.operationsunshinewa.org.