Many among us find it difficult to speak effectively about our current shared situation. Words are truly insufficient to convey how surreal, unsettling and at times deeply frightening our world became in a very short time. While we are in the eye of this storm, we will not be able to grasp the magnitude of this pandemic and the countless ways in which it will consequently shape societies, economies, industries, families… so many institutions the world over will be reeling from this experience for years and perhaps decades to come. While we cannot quite measure the scale of how it will shape our world there is the palpable sensation that the ground beneath our feet is shifting - as if we are standing on an ice floe that is breaking up, or a bridge that is collapsing, and as we fall we cannot tell how deep the chasm is below.

Therefore, if this is how we feel as adults, then one can only imagine how children must be feeling. Childhood can be characterised by insecurity and uncertainty at the best of times so one cannot expect our youngsters to carry on blithely when their entire daily routines have been upended. Many are grieving - and it is indeed a type of grief - that they can no longer attend school, see friends, visit relatives, head out on family trips for fast food, take walks in the park or by the sea, spend their pocket money… the complete and sudden absence of many of these things is undoubtedly distressing, and if we as adults cannot comprehend the terrifying left turn our world has taken then we cannot expect children to have the intellectual and emotional wherewithal to do so.

Those of us who are blessed to be parents may have gone through the out-of-nowhere upset of a child who appears to be content on the surface erupting without warning in a deluge of tears. We hear anecdotally that such breakdowns are common, that children who we believe to be unaware of the intricacies of the coronavirus unexpectedly pour out all of their anxieties about being dislocated from normality and the safety of their loved ones. For many children, this will be their first awareness of mortality, and that will be terrifying.

Our hearts collectively break that another sector of our society has been affected in such a profound way, more so when we consider the impact that Covid-19 will have on those young people who are in care. Many of those in the care system will have reduced contact with birth families and siblings - the end result being that their self-worth and security will be further diminished. Then there is the fact that the coronavirus will wreak widespread economic havoc, which in turn will further affect those at risk.

Therefore, it is heartening that organisations such as Madlug are continuing to champion the rights of the needy and vulnerable during this period of great doubt and insecurity. A unique way in which they have responded to this period of shutdown is by creating an activity book aimed at children of primary school age. Inside the cover there are plenty of puzzles to keep young readers busy on long afternoons but there are other important reasons to invest in this colourful and attractive book.

Firstly, it opens up opportunities for conversation with young ones about the Madlug cause: there are other young people who may not be as privileged yet who still deserve value, worth and dignity. It is amazing how the simple act of colouring in can lead to a chat about social responsibility in vocabulary that a child can understand. Children are incredibly astute and more often than not their responses are unfiltered through the channels and barriers that adults raise in order to shield themselves from harm and hurt. A child’s response to those in need is primarily a desire to help - and this is where the activity book comes into its own. Not only does it widen the awareness of young people within the care system but also it affords the opportunity to donate an activity book to a young person in care. In our world of plenty it is easy to forget how meaningful such a thing would be to someone who has very few possessions of their own, particularly when this book so boldly and clearly proclaims that each young person in care are incredible. This in turn feeds back into the Madlug cause of purchasing a bag so that another may be given to a young person in care so that they might experience more security and dignity.

This connection is vital during this strange and frightening period of lockdown - and will continue to be vital after this strange period reaches its natural conclusion.

So, if you can, please buy an activity book for your child or children and think about donating another to a child in care. This simple act of kindness will make a huge difference to the life of a young person in care.

Ross Thompson

May 23, 2020 — Madlug Blog

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