Recently, Madlug celebrated a milestone of five years in trading.

When our company sprung from a spark of an idea, we did not realise that we would still be going half a decade later. Yet, we continue to be both humbled and challenged by our mission to help young people in care. While we are proud of reaching five years we are fully aware that we could not have done so without those who have invested their money, time, and interest in supporting us in our mission. We are extremely grateful for every single person who has purchased one of our bags, shared one of our posts on social media, or told a friend about this company in Northern Ireland that is trying to help those on both sides of the care system.

Five years ago, our founder Dave Linton was profoundly moved by the accounts of young people in care carrying their possessions in black bin bags - the kind that one might use to dispose of rubbish or to pack away junk into the attic. The underlying reason for the use of black bin bags is that care workers are forced to make very difficult decisions under very difficult circumstances. When faced with an urgent situation, a social worker or foster carer might not have access to luggage. The primary concern is to ensure that the child in question reaches a safe space yet the impact on the child who has to carry the black bin bag is unfathomable. That young person feels devalued, lost, different, and stigmatised - as they are often under eighteen, they believe that their concerns are unseen. They believe that they are invisible. They believe that they have no value. For a young person in a formative stage of their life, this is deeply traumatic. They have issues with trust, particularly if they have experienced neglect, poverty, alcohol abuse, domestic violence. A combination of several of these societal problems can cause a child to feel fearful, unsettled, untrusting. Again, the black bin bag is emblematic of their lack of self-worth.

Madlug came into existence - the brand name stands for Make A Difference luggage, after all - to give these young people a voice. We promote the belief that every young person is incredible. Every young person is valuable even if - and especially if - they cannot see their own value. When so many young people in the care system suspect that adults are making decisions on their behalf, it makes a significant difference for them to receive a proper bag in which they can carry their belongings with dignity. The charity Barnardo’s recently documented a 44% rise in children entering the care system, therefore the need to give children in care a voice is more essential than ever. To date, we have provided bags to over 20,000 children in care, and more and more agencies are asking us for additional bags. That figure both causes us to feel yet more gratitude for our supporters and sponsors yet also sadness that such a need exists. We are very thankful to have established this relationship of trust and it galvanises us to strive to do more. We continue to hear firsthand accounts of “I am that child” or “I was that child”, and these testimonies affirm our belief in helping these incredible young people.

Currently, we are waiting on a significant number of bags in production and with every sale, we are adding to the quota of bags donated. Yet, we continue to hear from foster carers describing that young people are still arriving with their possessions in black bin bags. Madlug moves into this gap: the company exists primarily to support young people in the care system yet of equal value are the foster carers, social workers, teachers and other professionals. We realise that all services are stretched and that pressure will only be exacerbated as we move into an uncertain era in the wake of Covid-19, yet the key is that in our five years of trading we have built trust with local authorities. Madlug aims to enable and facilitate: in a culture of activism and fight, we do things through grace and love, and in doing so we bring others along on this journey. As many young people entering or moving through the care system are facing such complex challenges, at Madlug we have maintained a focus on the sale of backpacks and other bags as this is a simple yet empowering way for our supporters to get involved. When someone purchases a Madlug product they are not only directly helping a young person in care, they are also displaying our logo and therefore signifying that they believe in our core ethos of value, worth, and dignity.

Therefore, as we hit five years our thoughts turn to the question of where to go next. Of course, it is beneficial to look for other entrepreneurial opportunities, and as we grow as a business we would like to provide employment and training for care-experienced young people who struggle to attain such things through ordinary channels, to offer salaries and experience to those who might find difficulty in attaining them elsewhere. Madlug could be used as a conduit for learning skills and building confidence but we know that such things do not happen overnight: business is hard work, and it takes time to put such mechanics in place, and again we are thankful for the legions of people who have supported us in our mission thus far, particularly all of those who work on both our Madlug team and our board.

Importantly, we have never been more laser-focused on eradicating the need for bin bags, on providing value, worth, and dignity for the unseen and unheard yet incredible young people who we encounter on a daily basis. In closing, we would like to express sincere gratitude to everyone who helps us carry this torch. We cannot do it without you. Let’s continue to do it together.

July 20, 2020 — Madlug Blog

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