When Jessy Malham, founder of Bags of Joy, dropped by Barkly Square for a visit to the Y Ballarat, she was delighted to find out that her original vision had continued to grow and that nine years later, it was making more of an impact than ever.
Jessy, who was 19 at the time, had wanted to add some brightness to the lives of children who found that they didn’t have a lot to look forward to during the festive season.
Starting out as Boxes of Joy, the annual gift campaign has changed and gained momentum over time. Over the years, well over a thousand Bags and Boxes of Joy have been distributed in the Ballarat community in the lead up to Christmas time.
“Bags of Joy has evolved quite a lot over the past 9 years,” Jessy shared. “It originated as Boxes of Joy and in our first year provided around fifty gifts. And it’s just gone up and up since then.”
With a number of community groups catering to the younger age groups, it became apparent that often older siblings or young adults missed out. As an organisation that works with and for young people, our own young people felt that it was time to shift our focus to ensure that this older cohort weren’t forgotten, especially at a time of year when isolation can be compounded.
Especially important to Jessy, was the idea of Bags of Joy expanding into other communities and continuing to make a difference through the involvement of young people. She has seen that initiatives such as Bags of Joy also bring benefits for all those involved, as they help demonstrate the impact that can be achieved by small acts to support others in our community.
“I’m really excited to see young people continuing to participate in this initiative,” she said, speaking of her hopes for the future of the campaign.
Expressions of kindness and recognition can make a world of difference to a young person, especially when facing challenges and difficult situations at a time that is widely promoted as one of connection and joy.
We heard about the kind of impact that a Bag of Joy can make from a referrer last year.
“One of the young lads who received a Bag of Joy, looked at me and said ‘thank you so much, I haven’t had any presents for 3 years,’” they told us.
Bags of Joy are now for ages 12 to 21, and in order to be as meaningful and inclusive as possible, contain gift cards allowing young people to choose something relevant that appeals.
Recipients are nominated by agencies, other organisations, schools and community members.
This year we are aiming to help add a sparkle to the festive season for 200 young people.
Find out more about Bags of Joy and how you can help through a donation here.