Belonging Bundle
A kit of tools designed for kids coming from displaced homes to establish ownership and create safe spaces to call home.
Design Research
Product Design
The Belonging Bundle derived from my personal experience of being in foster care, and my struggles with finding a sense of belonging in an unstable environment and a new family. I designed a survival kit that aims to provide kids in similar situations with tools to help cope with the confusing and scary time that is foster care and adoption. The paired installation experience invites guests into a bedroom to make their own, establish control over the space, and to reflect and empathize with what foster kids might be feeling. ​​​​​​​
How can I design a better way for kids to cope with the uncertainty and fear during a transition into foster care? 
The foster care experience is a scary, confusing, and uncertain time for a child. Their childhood is disrupted; homes change, families change, and the future is unknown. This instability can cause kids to develop their own coping mechanisms to deal with this difficult situation. Adults can also face difficulties engaging with foster children and creating a safe, new home for them,  and strangers aren't always sure how to engage with adoptees. 

6 year old Tommy (center) with brother and foster sister

By giving the kids the control—and giving them the tools to freely create ownership over their space in order to feel like they belong. 
The Belonging Bundle is designed for young kids ages 4-8. Each tool in the kit is a blank canvas for kids to freely write and draw on, establishing ownership over their belongings and surroundings. The kit encourages kids to be creative, own their stories, and find comfort in any place they need to call home.
Inspired by the 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.
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.
The multi-use markers are used to personalize every item in the kit. Drawing, marking and personalization declares ownership and stakes an object as their own personal possession. The words on each marker, asks kids to reflect and define their own meanings of belonging, family and identity, and validates each kids' experience by reminding them of the qualities they have to endure through this transition time.
Kangaroos are nomadic animals that carry their most prized belongings in their pouches. Kato the Kangaroo 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.
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. 
The "Kato Finds Home" picture book tells of a story of losing and finding home that the foster child can relate to. 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 bring comfort in their new home. 
The Belonging Bedroom invites guests into an unfamiliar, new, 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. Through this public engagement, I hope to create empathy for the foster care experience.
I designed and put up posters around the building inviting guests to the bedroom. Signage then instructs guests how to use the room, and to take a survey answering questions like "What does home mean to you?" and "How do you create belonging?".
UX Journey
This project asked me to draw from personal experiences to turn pain into product. Not only did I learn about myself, I also learned how to tackle difficult subjects and I turned unfortunate situations into an opportunity for design. For a quick 2 week project, I was able to quickly mock up works-like models to test with users, and scrap together simple, bare materials into an installation. I hope that the Belonging Bundle and Bedroom raises awareness and empathy for foster care children, and can help make a foster's child transition into a new home a bit more easy and comforting.
Moving forward, I want to use the results from the survey to create a product line extension for different age groups. I think this type of kit would work well for college students experiencing home sickness in their college dorms. I also want to explore different aesthetics to provide several options for kids, such as "Tommy the Turtle" with a floral motif.
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