Reading articles about child abuse and seeing footage of it on our television is devastating.
As a mother especially, it just breaks my heart.
The same question arises each and every time, what can we do about it… Where can we get the money to help? The exposure? The credibility?
One of the ways we can help to raise money and awareness for vulnerable children is by teaming up with some of the world’s best business brands and well-known people in our media. That’s exactly what The Body Shop and Jamila Rizvi, along with the Australian Childhood Foundation, have done.
Jamila Rizvi is an author, presenter and speaker: she’s the editor of the Network’s Future Women Weekly, and a regular commentator on The Project, Today and The Drum.
Jamila is working alongside The Body Shop Australia to raise awareness of a new program combating child abuse and trauma.
The facts around Australian children being affected by trauma and family violence are alarming. Every night in Australia, 48,000 children cannot sleep in their own beds because they fear for their safety.
The Body Shop has teamed up with Australian Childhood Foundation (ACF) to launch the ‘Healing Hearts Project’ – a 12-month partnership to fund a new range of special therapeutic dolls to be used in counselling sessions with children.
The dolls are carefully designed to support children who have been abused but can’t find the words to talk about their trauma.
One doll – a snail – helps children who have never had a real home, essentially their school bag becoming their ‘travelling’ home, just like the snail.
The Body Shop Australia and the Australian Childhood Foundation (ACF) are also launching the ‘Healing Hearts Garden’.
The first garden will launch in Victoria, and are then being rolled out nation-wide. These gardens are designed to reduce extreme stress and anxiety, allowing children to find a sense of calm after intense trauma. It’s a place where children can explore their senses and rekindle their imaginations, while also finding their breath in a restorative, natural environment.
The Body Shop will be donating an additional $20,000 to the Foundation to contribute to the building of the garden.
I caught up with Jamila just before Christmas to find out exactly why she’s involved and to discover how families who need this service can get in touch.
How long have you been involved with ACF and what made you get involved in the first place?
This year I’ve been working with The Body Shop as a spokeswoman for a few different campaigns, all of which have a focus on giving back to the community. I am so delighted to see an Australian business that is genuinely committed to having a positive impact in the world beyond profit margins and product creation. It’s through that work that I was introduced to the Australian Childhood Foundation.
The Body Shop has teamed up with Australian Childhood Foundation to bring love back to children affected by the trauma of abuse and violence through their ‘Healing Hearts Project’. This is a twelve-month partnership, which funds the creation of a therapeutic doll program to help children heal and recover from trauma. It’s included the design, creation and delivery of 400 therapeutic dolls to be used by Australian Childhood Foundation professionals and carers in counselling sessions with children. The program is also supporting specialist training for 100 professionals to work with the dolls and the delivery of counselling sessions.
Why did you get involved in the first place and what is your role?
When I became a mum for the first time, three and a half years ago, it changed my world. Like so many parents, I can no longer disassociate myself from a news cycle, which reports on children who have suffered abuse or trauma, suffering or displacement. I turn away from those stories on the TV at night and dial down the sound of the radio in my car. It hurts too much because every one of those kids feels like they could be my kid.
When The Body Shop asked me to come on board and support their partnership with Australian Childhood Foundation, I was thrilled at the opportunity to use my voice to spread awareness and generate support. I also think it’s important for businesses and the not-for-profit sector to be working more closely together on projects like this. That relationship helps consumers to give back and prompts us to spend in a more meaningful way.
How can families become a part of the Healing Hearts Project if they feel a child needs this in their life?
The Healing Hearts Garden is being piloted at the Melbourne Trauma Centre before a national roll out and will be a space for children and families accessing therapeutic counselling services. The principles that underpin the design of these spaces can be applied to family gardens at home. So parents and carers can learn about how nature plays a role in helping children find calm and the benefits it provides to our physical and mental wellbeing – and hopefully implement it anywhere.
The dolls are a beautiful idea, where did this idea come from?
They are, aren’t they? Research has shown that exploring children’s senses through toys and games helps to unlock the trauma held in children’s bodies. These dolls are cute and cuddly but, importantly, they’re also sensory and have a story to tell. It’s through these stories and the carefully designed calming nature of the dolls that children are able to feel comfortable speaking about and coming to terms with the trauma they’ve experienced. The whole process is about making them feel safe again and rediscovering the joys of play. We have to help these kids reclaim their right to have a childhood.
Can you tell us a little about the garden and the layout? What can families and children expect to find?
The Australian Childhood Foundation is currently engaging children in the process of creating these gardens. They’re asking them what they would like in their garden and what they love about nature. Creating a sense of fun, discovery and childlike wonder is essential to making this work. The gardens will feature chalkboards, different surfaces and spaces like mulched and paved areas. There will be a rock garden, which includes a water element, a deck with an internal ‘pit’ and outdoor beanbags.
Some of the ideas currently being explored are how children may plant and garden with their hands, play and interact with the earth, with trees and plants, and how to not only create interactions externally but bring elements of nature to indoor therapeutic spaces. The Healing Hearts Garden is also a transitional space into and out of the centre. It can be utilised to create calm and peace for children and their carers, a brief but important refuge for them as they come to share their experiences with counsellors.