We had the good fortune of connecting with Rebecca Hamm and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Rebecca, as a parent, what have you done for you children that you feel has had the most significant impact?
My journey to becoming a parent started down a more unconventional path. Our son joined our family when he was just over two, and my daughter 3 years later, she had just turned four. Our children’s journey had begun before us, and we did not have the ability to control anything that had happened to them prior. This is a wild, and crazy idea to come to terms with as a parent. As a parent you want nothing more than for your child to feel safe, loved, and accepted. In most cases, for biological children, this is something that just comes naturally, it’s a beautiful gift. But for many adopted children, especially those who have joined families as older children, it is something that must be taught. A child’s brain is almost 80% developed by the time they are three. That means many of their stress responses, coping mechanisms, and ideas of the world are formed by then. (Institute, n.d.) If your child has experienced hardship, this is going to impact their story greatly. So, as a parent of adopted children, whose beginning journeys were not easy, I needed to earn their love and their acceptance. Unfortunately, how kids typically test you is trying to push you away when their big feelings come up. It is their way of desperately wanting to say, “I cannot trust you; I can do this on my own” or “I don’t need you because all the other adults have let me down.” I had to show them that no matter what they did or how they acted I was going to be there for them. I was going to fight for them and lavish the feeling of safety on my children with every fiber of my body. This is the most important thing I’ve done and will continue to do to impact my children.
Institute, T. U. (n.d.). Baby’s Brain Begins Now: Conception to Age 3. Retrieved from The Urban Child Institute: http://www.urbanchildinstitute.org/why-0-3/baby-and-brain
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
After everything that I had been through, and was learning, I wanted to do something to give back to the kids in my community who were experiencing traumatic situations.
One day, I was listening to the radio and heard about an organization out of Ontario that was packing backpacks for kids coming into foster care and I wondered if anything like that existed here? At the same time, my good friend Ruth had just become a foster parent and she was getting her first placement, a little girl. She had prepared a welcome basket for her filled with items that the little girl would enjoy. This got my wheels turning more.
Often kids who are getting moved into foster care, are removed late at night. Frequently, it needs to be quick to get them out of a dangerous situation. So, they take what little they can grab, and most often, it’s thrown into a garbage bag and transported that way. I was disgusted to hear this. What does that say to the child? You’re not important, your stuff not important. You’re trash.
I was going to change that, and so My Luvpak was born.
We build backpacks for kids coming into kinship/foster care, coming from traumatic home situations, struggling with poverty, running from an abusive parent, or dealing with homelessness. All sorts of tough situations. We work with youth shelters, children’s services agencies, schools, child abuse support centers, and the local police to help distribute the backpacks.
We fill the backpacks with hand-picked items like a teddy, a fuzzy blanket, a journal, book, flashlight, toiletries, snacks, etc. these items are meant to bring them a feeling of comfort and joy during an awful time. We know that we cannot change their situations, but we want to bring them the feeling that they are loved no matter what. In the front pocket of the pack is a card that says “Dear Precious Child, this backpack was made by people who really care about you. You are special. You are brave. You are good. You are loved more than you know.”
Currently, we distribute approximately 350-400 Luvpaks a year in Grande Prairie and northern Alberta, we’ve started another branch, with a third branch to launch shortly. It comes with its challenges, but when I get discouraged, I seek counsel from friends, and I push ahead; always reminding myself that this is never about me, and always about the kids.
If you have a big idea, but you’re nervous and scared to take the first leap, I encourage you with this quote that I found early on in my journey, and it reminds me of just what one person can do when they set their mind to it.
“I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.” — Edward Everett Hale
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Compared to LA, I live in a small city in northern Alberta. It is the “hub” of the north, but not exactly a scene per se lol. But that being said, I would start by taking them out for brunch at Brown’s Social House, and then we’d grab a coffee from Wapiti Bean Co. A local coffee shop that also roasts its own beans. Then I would take them on a hike through some of our park trails. There are some fabulous little trails on the south side of our city called the “waxwing” trails. The next day, I would take them out for breakfast at Jeffery’s restaurant, a beautiful, modern locally owned place. Then out to my sister’s bee farm “Beelicious Honey” for a tour of the hives and a taste of some real honeycomb dripping in clover honey. I’m not just biased, many people say she has the best honey! I’d finish the day off with a fire down by the Simonette River. By day three, I’d make sure we stopped in for a tour of the Art Gallery of Grande Prairie, which is one of the largest free admission galleries in western Canada. they host many rotating art installations from numerous artists. Then I would take them for a flight of beer at our famous local brewery Grain Bin Brewing Company. Lastly, I would take our own secondary road trip and head towards the Rocky Mountains in Jasper, which is four hours away from Grande Prairie. When you live in the north, nothing is close! Along the way, we’d stop at Folding Mountain Brewing Co just outside of Hinton for lunch. I’d make our reservations at The Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge just outside of Jasper. The next day, after breakfast in bed, I’d make sure we hiked the Maligne Canyon in Jasper while finishing off with the evening with a treatment at the Fairmont Spa, and finally supper around the roaring fire at The Emerald Lounge in the hotel. The second day would be comprised of White Water Rafting in the morning, and lunch at the famous Patricia Street Deli for an out-of-this-world handmade sandwich. We’d head back the following day, and I’d say farewell to my friend, hoping I had shown them the best the north has to offer.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I do not think that I could shout out just one person. There have been so many individuals in my life who have impacted me in one way or another.
However, my husband of 16 years (we are high school sweethearts) is my number one fan and has supported me in every part of my journey. Through thick, thin, and everything in between, he has been there for me. When I had the dream to start My Luvpak, he was right there behind me, encouraging me and making sacrifices so that I could achieve my goals. I am so grateful to have a partner that makes me laugh, holds me close, and accepts me for who I am.
Secondly, through prayer and meditation, my faith in God has sustained me as I’ve faced many hardships along the way.
Third, my kids have challenged me in ways that I never thought were possible, but they have inspired growth and change in me and encourage me to always strive to be the best version of myself possible.
Lastly, my close friends, and all of my family continue to be my community lifeblood; they have contributed in each of their ways to make me who I am today. I am thankful for the listening ears, support, and constant encouragement that they give.
The books that have changed my life:
Daring Greatly – Brene Brown
Building The Bonds of Attachment – Awakening Love in Deeply Troubled Children -Daniel A. Hughes
Tuesdays With Morrie – Mitch Albom
The Happiest Man on Earth – Eddie Jaku
Instagram: @myluvpak, @myluvpaklakeland