Foster carers recognised for starting Queensland branch of Hope in a Suitcase

Gold Coast couple Darren and Karen Germon were “empty nesters” looking forward to slowing down after raising four children and selling their telecommunications business.

But Karen Germon knew she wanted to do more than continue sponsoring underprivileged children living overseas.

“We’ve always had a heart for vulnerable children and children in need,” she said.

“We started the process and we have been carers for three years.”

In those three years, they have now cared for 11 children and are currently raising two 19-month-old toddlers.

Darren Germon said he was initially reticent but soon found joy in raising children again.

“It’s glorious and wonderful and horrible and hard all at the same time,” he said.

“They give you incredible love, but you do realise you are in your 50s when you are chasing toddlers around.”

Ms Germon agrees foster care is a worthwhile and fulfilling challenge.

“It has its moments, it can be exhausting, but these children are so beautiful,” she said.

“They’re just family to us and the joy that they bring, as well as the stress, is just worth everything.”

Not content with raising two toddlers, the couple also started the Queensland branch of Hope in a Suitcase, a non-profit organisation.

It provides foster children with a suitcase filled with items including toiletries, pyjamas, a change of clothing and something to cuddle.

“When a child is removed from a home, it’s usually a very traumatic and emergent situation,” Ms Germon said.

“There’s no time to grab their belongings.

“They usually come with the clothes on their back or a few items shoved in a plastic bag.

“It’s demoralising for them and a horrible situation and I thought, this is not good enough.”

The foster carer spoke with the group’s New South Wales-based founder Rachael Clancy about the volunteer-run organisation.

The Gold Coast mother then set up a Facebook page and website and asked the community for donations and suitcases.

“I was blown away, the community just grabbed it and ran with it,” she said.

“We’ve spread it right across Queensland now.”

Hope in a Suitcase services the Gold Coast, Brisbane, Sunshine Coast, Hervey Bay, Rockhampton, Emerald, Townsville and Cairns.

Award recognition
The couple’s hard work will be recognised when they’re presented with a Queensland Child Protection Week Volunteer Award at Parliament House today.

Ms Germon said they were surprised to be nominated and humbled to be recognised.

“We don’t do this for awards, it’s not about us, it’s about the children,” she said.

Queensland Child Protection Week runs from September 4-10.