Rachael Zaltron: Backpacks 4 SA Kids
How a five-year-old summed up Rachael’s good work
Many people are grateful for the work Rachael Zaltron does in the community. But she is particularly touched by a thankyou note from a five-year-old girl.
The child had received one of the colourful backpacks Rachael and her colleagues send to displaced children. In it were a few useful age-appropriate items such as new clothes, a torch, a soft toy, toiletries, pencils and a colouring-in book.
The grateful girl had never had new underwear before and she sent Rachael a drawing of herself with a big smile.
Feedback like that is a “big reality check”, says Rachael, who started Backpacks 4 SA Kids in 2013 with the aim of helping a few vulnerable and neglected children.
Together with another family, she began collecting donations for items with which to fill the backpacks and assembled them in her carport.
In that first year, 554 backpacks were provided to children under the age of 16 who had been displaced from home, often because of abuse, neglect or violence.
Now the organisation has state-wide reach, a large warehouse and a band of committed volunteers.
It provides more than 3,000 backpacks a year to children displaced from home and the demand is increasing as Rachael’s work is recognised by child support and domestic violence agencies across South Australia.
The organisation also provides about 1,000 Anchor Packs to people aged 12-24 who are homeless and often sleeping rough. These comprise a duffle bag, a mobile phone, toiletries, sunscreen, ponchos, colouring items, a torch, a radio, a drink bottle and socks.
The organisation also provides Home Starter Packs to young mothers moving away from domestic violence.
Rachael says it is a “big honour” to be a Westfield Local Hero.
Backpacks 4 SA Kids will use the $10,000 Westfield Local Heroes grant to buy pyjamas and other types of clothing for the children.
Rachael says: “By giving them something new you are giving them a new level of confidence.”