Honour for charity boss Karen

Buddy Bag founder wins recognition for helping child victims of domestic abuse

A Sutton Coldfield woman who founded a Midland charity that helps children fleeing domestic violence at home has been awarded an OBE in the New Year’s Honours list.
Karen Williams, CEO of the Buddy Bag Foundation, was recognised by the Queen for her services to victims of domestic abuse.
The foundation provides buddy bags – back packs filled with home comforts and essential items – to children living in emergency accommodation. That can be refuges, hotels or B&Bs.
Since its launch in 2015, the foundation’s volunteers have packaged and delivered over 30,000 bags to children after raising more than £750,000. 
Karen, 59, who lives in Sutton Coldfield with partner Sean, said: “I am both honoured and humbled to have received an OBE in the New Year’s Honours list.

My dream five years ago was to set up a charity that could and would make a real and meaningful different to children in emergency care.
“With the assistance and support of all our volunteers we have realised this dream.
“We have packed over 30,000 Buddy Bags, far exceeding our initial target and look to the future with optimism at the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

“Thank you to all our volunteers and supporters – together we have achieved and are continuing to achieve something truly special.”
The idea for the foundation came about in 2014 when Karen, a mother of three and grandmother of four, was in Australia visiting her son.

“The bags go to children who have to flee the family home because of violent situations and often arrive at centres in the middle of the night with nothing.

She read about an Australian charity that helps children who have encountered violence and abuse.
“Reading the piece stirred a deep emotional reaction within me and as a mother I just had to do something for children in emergency care back home in the UK,” said Karen.
“So I set up the Buddy Bag Foundation in 2015.

“The bags go to children who have to flee the family home because of violent situations and often arrive at centres in the middle of the night with nothing.
“Bags cost £25 to fill and contain essential items such as toiletries, pyjamas and underwear and comforting items including books and teddy bears.”
Earlier in December, the foundation celebrated its fifth anniversary. Karen added: “What an amazing journey we have found ourselves on.

“The plan to make a difference to children by supplying our bags has totally exceeded by wildest dreams.
“With the support of our trustees, ambassadors and volunteers, we have raised over £750,000, with 100 per cent of all donations going towards supplying the buddy bags.

We have managed to pack over 30,000 buddy bags and engaged with over 400 volunteers.
“Reading the thank you cards from the children and testimonials from the mums and refuge centres have touched the hearts of so many.”
In 2017 Karen was given a Points of Light award by then prime minister Theresa May, and in 2018 she was a finalist in Lorraine Kelly’s Woman of the Year contest.OBE

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