Originally stemming from a college class on design for social justice, this project asked me to dig deep and think about a time I felt marginalized, and to design a survival kit for past me to cope with that time—essentially to turn pain into product.
I reflected upon my time in foster care and created a kit of tools that I wish I would have had myself as a foster kid.
For many kids, foster care is a scary and confusing time. Imagine it—often times you are moving from place to place, each time with new faces to call your guardians and your siblings, and a new bed to call your own. For some, you may be all by yourself, or you may look nothing like the people around you. Through personal self reflection, I discovered an essential need that was lacking for kids in the foster care system: the need for belonging, an emotional need to feel connected and accepted in a place and group.
Inspired by bindles carried by hobos and voyagers, the drawstring pillowcase lets kids gather all of their valuables into one bag ready to move at any time.
Kids are encouraged to write their names and personalize the pillowcase, which instantly provides comfort and familiarity once placed on a pillow in a new bed in a new home.
The multi-use markers are used to personalize every item in the kit. The act of drawing, marking and personalization declares ownership over a person's belongings.
The words on each marker, asks kids to reflect and define their own meanings of belonging and identity, and validates each kids experience by reminding them of qualities they have.
Adoptees need to make sense of their own stories. Each kids adoption story is their own, and they don't have to share it with others if they don't want to.
Prompts like "I feel happy when..." and "These are the people I live with:" encourages kids to write and draw about their own experience, reflect on their feelings, and also get familiar with the new space and people they have to call home.
Bringing a piece of home to decorate a new space helps establish belonging. The colorable picture frame allows kids to honor their past, remember where they came from, and bring comfort into their new home.
Alternatively, newly adopted families can take a family photo together and hang the frame up to welcome the child home. Developing this connection and physical artifact from the start, helps the child feel as if they have always been there.
Giving kids space to explore issues of belonging through stories is a healthy way to tap into any repressed feelings they may be having.
The child can also bring this book to their new guardian, and establish a ritual of reading with them. A shared and steady activity a child can look forward to can further help establish belonging and comfort in their new home.
Kato the stuffed kangaroo, a nomadic animal that is often seen adopting other baby joeys, acts as a companion that is experiencing all the same things that the child is going through. Like all the objects in the kit, the child can draw on Kato, and also keep their most valuable belongings inside Kato's zippered pouch.
The installation invites guests into an unfamiliar, cold white bedroom, simulating the experience of a foster child. Like a blank canvas, they are encouraged to grab a marker and draw on every surface of the bedroom, marking their territory, establishing control and ownership over the new space. Serving as a backdrop for the product line, The Belonging Bedroom is an installation to engage audiences with this topic and to cultivate empathy for the foster care experience.