Community

See what’s happening in our community! Meet some of our Foundation Family and look at how we can support those around us!

Fostering change: Behind Floriana’s desire to help children in care

As we find ourselves living through an unexpected and uncertain circumstance, I think it is so necessary to acknowledge and express gratitude for what brings love and light to our lives. 

This was the exact mindset that prompted me to embrace the unknown and try something completely new. In April of 2019 a significant chapter in my life closed, I found myself experience emotions I never thought possible (including that ugly demon heartbreak). I have always been somebody who embraces a challenge, craves opportunity and has a generous nature. However, at this point in my journey I felt completely deflated.

I distinctly remember a phone call had with a dear friend, former Pyjama Angel, Melissa Caccamo.

My gorgeous friend Melissa (pictured left)

Her words felt like sunshine.
She said “Flo, you need to find a way to divert all the love, positive energy and time you were feeding your relationship into something just as worthwhile’.

My friend reminded me of all the positive qualities I had to share with the world but had momentarily forgotten in the midst of sadness. Mel encouraged me to apply as a Pyjama Angel, give back to the community and be a ray of sunshine for a child who needed to be reassured that they are valued, worthy and loved.

Thank you for being my ray of sunshine that day and everyday Mel.


Without hesitation I applied that following day. Not long after I had my interview and attended training. I was shocked by the statistics around poor literacy and numeracy skills among children in care. However, I was more so enlightened, that spending only one hour a week with these children would help carve a positive outlook for their future.

Along the way I interacted with such passionate, likeminded and wholehearted individuals. The whole process just felt right. I knew that this was going to be such a special experience and I hadn’t even met my little cherub yet!

Typically, one Pyjama Angel is paired with one little person. However in light of embracing opportunity I was offered a dynamic duo, two brothers! I was paired with who I now like to call ‘Crazy number 1’ (aged 12) and ‘Crazy number 2’ (aged 9). I organically became ‘Crazy number 3’ (aged 23!).

My relationship with K&J began in August 2019 and the fun hasn’t stopped since!

Together we have;

  • Planted a vegetable patch

    My ‘magic bag’ of resources!

  • Made slime
  • Tackled puzzles and board games
  • Kicked the soccer ball outside
  • Read, researched and presented projects on their hobbies and interests
  • Completed homework (after lots of convincing!) and sometimes;
  • We just dance and sing like total crazies!

 

On a personal level, my passion for the non-for-profit sector and working with children has grown fiercely strong. I am also currently involved with The Pyjama Foundation team, working as a Marketing and Communications Assistant/Intern. This entire experience has prompted me to consider a return to university to study Youth Work. To nurture what I believe is my true calling!

Fostering a relationship with K&J has brought nothing but colour to my world. It helped turn such a dark and uncertain time into an incredible discovery of growth and opportunity. I feel grateful to be able to help these boys find a happier ending to their life story.


I thank The Pyjama Foundation for choosing me.

F xx

Townsville Pyjama Angel volunteer honoured for impact during Volunteer Week

AFTER five years of unwavering dedication to The Pyjama Foundation, Townsville resident Susanne Gardner has been honoured in the 2020 Volunteering North Queensland Awards.

Sue took out the Volunteer Impact Award category, for her work touching the lives of more than 600 people throughout the Townsville community.

An extremely deserving acknowledgement for a woman who not only dedicates time every week to support a child in foster care, but is also fundamental in keeping The Foundation’s resource library organised for other volunteers, as well as acting as vice president of the Townville Toy Library, secretary of the Probus Club and volunteer at St Joseph’s Catholic School The Strand.

North QLD coordinator Mel Vaughan said above all Sue is an incredibly beautiful person who has a quiet wisdom and listens to the stories of others without judgement.

“We have a wide range of volunteers, from a range of backgrounds. Sue welcomes everyone into our Foundation with a smile. She has a quiet, calm presence and is a joy to be around,” she said.

Sue began her journey by training as a Pyjama Angel volunteer in 2016 and was initially placed with an 8- year-old boy to support him in building learning, life skills and confidence.

This little boy moved out of Townsville but that wasn’t going to be the end of Sue’s journey.

“His carer loved Sue so much she asked her the following week to continue visiting another child in her home,” Mel said.

“Of course, Sue agreed. Sue’s weekly visits help one little vulnerable girl know that she is special, loved and has opportunities- which is priceless.”

The award presented to Sue is part of 2020 National Volunteer Week celebrations occurring across the country.

Volunteering North Queensland’s acting manager Natalie Dukes said National Volunteer Week is an opportunity when we, as a North Queensland community, publicly thank, acknowledge and celebrate our wonderful volunteers.

“Throughout the nominations received for the four awards this year, there was such a strong theme of empowering others to make a difference.

Click here for more information about becoming a Pyjama Angel or to apply.

Townsville Grammar School gets wacky and tacky for kids in care

Students from Townsville Grammar School have held a Wacky Tacky fundraiser in support of The Pyjama Foundation. Together they raised more than $600 to support children in out-of-home care.

Students and staff dressed up in their wackiest outfits for the last Friday of Week 8. Everyone was encouraged to wear bright clothes and bring even brighter smiles. The school community certainly delivered, with glitter and neon outfits to boot.

Townsville Grammar School captain of the junior school’s community service team Chloe Langtree organised the event. With the help of her fellow students, Chloe passionately got her school community board as a way to give back to her community.

“I chose to support the Pyjama Foundation, because I found what they did really helped the community.

The volunteers don’t get paid, and yet they turn up to help children in need,” she said.

“A Foundation like this one definitely deserves a cheer, and they have my full support. Dedicating fundraiser to them was a way of showing it.”

Townsville Grammar assistant head of junior school Chris Gray said it is important to foster  sense of community as part of the culture of the school.

He also acknowledged the need for students and staff to have fun and bring “laughter and smiles” to the school community.

“The last couple of years have been particularly more about FUNraising as we had the flood last year and now COVID-19,” he said.

“Days like these also go a long way to bind us together as a School community and to build on the sense of pride we have for each other and our School.”

If you’d like to find out more about holding a fundraising event to support The Pyjama Foundation, please click here.

Santa swaps his sleigh for a limousine to visit Brisbane children in care

High profile celebrities are usually seen riding around in Premier Limousines’ luxury limousines, but this past Christmas some very special children were lucky enough to take a ride instead.

For many carers, Christmas can place a severe financial strain on their families; with many caring for upwards of five children at any one time. Carers so desperately want to ensure each and every child in their home is overwhelmed with joy on Christmas morning, as it’s often the reality that these children may have never experienced this magic before.

Each Christmas, The Pyjama Foundation team collects presents from generous community groups which are then given to children participating within its Love of Learning Program. This year they have teamed up with the very generous Premier Limousines to make Santa’s final visit before the big day extra special.

Our founder Bronwyn Sheehan said she’s proud to offer this special experience for these families this Christmas.

“It’s so amazing that we’re able to not only surprise these children with the appearance of Santa at their homes but also take them for a ride in a limousine, something they may never have the chance to do again,” she said.

WHY WE DO IT

Ms Sheehan said she wishes she could do so much more, with the number of children in care rapidly growing.

“Currently there are more than 48,000 children in foster care, and statistics show that approximately 75 per cent of these children will not complete high school,” she said.

“Many children in care bounce from home to home, and to difference schools which greatly hinders their ability to build relationships and meet learning milestones.”

The Pyjama Foundation recruits, screens and trains volunteer mentors, and then carefully matches them with a child in care.

Together, they focus on learning-based activities and games, with the aim of improving the child’s educational outcomes and confidence. Currently we are mentoring more than 1,400 children on a national scale with the hopes of expanding its reach in 2019.

To hire your own limo and feel like a star for an upcoming event or special occasion, check out our friends at Premier Limousines for a comfortable ride of luxury.

Every donation matched for 24 hours

 

Across Australia, more than 30,000 children living in foster care won’t graduate from high school. The effect of bouncing from home to home often results in failure to reach literacy and numeracy benchmarks.

For over 15 years The Pyjama Foundation has been actively working to change this. By recruiting and training committed community volunteers the Foundation can help children in care thrive.

Today is International Giving Tuesday. To celebrate, Direct Connect Australia and Prism Surgical will match every donation made to The Pyjama Foundation for 24 hours. Therefore, this will double the already incredible impact a donation makes to ensuring more children can be supported in 2020.

Foundation CEO and executive director, Bronwyn Sheehan, is blown away by the support for the Christmas Campaign.

“We are always amazed by the support received at Christmas, but this year has been made extra special with the opportunity to match all donations for one day only,” she said.

“This is a chance for the community to make an even bigger impact with their donation, and to help us change the direction of a child’s life.”

It costs $800 to train every new Pyjama Angel. By raising $40,000 in donations for the 2019 Christmas Campaign, The Pyjama Foundation will be able to train 50 Pyjama Angel’s and, above all, support more children in foster care.

 

HOW TO DONATE

Head to our Christmas Appeal to make a donation which will be instantly matched* and have double the impact on a child who deserves it most this Christmas.

*Up to the value of $10,000. Donations made on 3 December for 24 hours only.

Meet Kimberly Ngo – New Sydney Team Member

 

 

We sat down with our new Sydney Events and Placement Support team member, Kim Ngo, to find out why she chose to join The Pyjama Foundation’s team (family), and to know what drives her, and other fun little tidbits!

Why did you apply for the role of ‘Events and Placement Support’?

I had been working in Advertising for many years and wanted so desperately for a change to do something more fulfilling. I had also trained to be a Pyjama Angel last year so I was already in love with the organisation and what it stood for. So naturally, when this opportunity came up, I jumped at it.

 What do you love most about your job (so far)?

That it’s meaningful and I feel like I can contribute to something worthwhile. I’ve also only been here for a short period of time, but everyone I have met has been extremely positive and welcoming. I feel like I’m surrounded by genuinely nice people.

What challenges are you currently facing? (And how are you working to overcome them)

Probably just wrapping my head around the role and industry. Also to not get teary and cry at literally every story I come across!

 What are your goals for the Sydney region/ branch of The Pyjama Foundation?

To recruit as many volunteers as I can and as such, place as many children as I can.

 What are you passionate about? / What drives you?

To create social change and to help others. To make my family (and myself) proud about what I do and accomplish.

 What do you like to do in your spare time?

I love food, so I’m often either cooking or eating – there’s also nothing better than a big glass at the end of the week. My cheeky four year old nephew is also my favourite person, so I like to spend time with him too.

 What are your favourite places to visit in Sydney?

My parents’ home for my mum’s cooking! Or around Newtown and Surry Hills for some good food and cute bars. You’ll notice there’s a bit of a theme here with food…

 What’s your favourite quote?

While there’s life, there’s hope.

 What’s a fun fact about you that you’d like to share?

I’m obsessed with horror films and have probably seen most that are made from the last two decades.

 What’s your favourite children’s book?

Does Harry Potter count?

Brisbane black tie gala enhances the lives of children in foster care

TUXEDO’S and ball gowns will be flocking to QUT’s Room Three Sixty on October 12 with one very important mission at front of mind.

The Pyjama Foundation’s annual Big Dreams Gala Ball raises crucial funds to support its Love of Learning Program, providing a learning mentor to vulnerable children in the out-of-home care system.

This year is extra special for the Foundation as it celebrates 15 years of changing the direction of children’s lives.

Queensland Minister for Child Safety Di Farmer congratulated The Pyjama Foundation on its 15th birthday.

“There is nothing more important to help kids learn to read and write than reading to them, and I cannot overstate the value of the work that The Pyjama Foundation does together with their volunteers to make sure kids in care get that same great start in life,” Ms Farmer said.

“To everyone associated with The Pyjama Foundation during the past 15 years – founder Brownyn Sheehan, staff, and their army of Pyjama Angels – thank you for being important adults in children’s lives.

“You have made, and continue to make such a difference in thousands of children’s lives.”

Ms Farmer encouraged Queensland’s corporate community to support the Pyjama Foundation’s Big Dreams Gala Ball next month.

“Attending the Gala Ball is an easy way to assist this wonderful organisation to recruit, screen, train and support more volunteers to help more children build their life skills and confidence so they can take on the world,” she said.

Many businesses across Queensland have already pledged their support for the evening donating incredible prizes to help the Foundation raise vital funds to continue its important work in the community.

Prizes include accommodation in Australia and internationally, experiences such as paint and sip and mini golf at Brisbane’s incredible Victoria Park complex and a state-of-the-art trampoline from the team at Vuly.

The Pyjama Foundation founder and CEO Bronwyn Sheehan said she was humbled by the support the event had received already and was hopeful this year would raise more funds than ever before.

“Attendance at our Gala Ball always leaves people with the most special, magical feeling that they are really doing something important to change the direction of a child’s life,” she said.

“It’s so much more than just a chance to get dressed up, attendees here first hand from the children and carers they are supporting and the impact our Foundation has made on their lives.”

Currently, there are more than 48,000 children in foster care in Australia, with more than 9,000 here in QLD.

The Pyjama Foundation currently mentors more than 1400 of these children nationally and feels it is only scratching the surface of the level of support it can provide to kids in care.

Statistics show without early intervention such as The Pyjama Foundation’s Love of Learning program, many children in the system will not graduate grade 12 and face heightened statistics of homeless and juvenile detention.

To support the Foundation at their Big Dreams Gala Ball and help turn these statistics around, please purchase a ticket via: https://tiny.cc/BigDreamsBall

 

Please contact events@thepyjamafoundation.com for more information on sponsorship opportunities.

Dedicated volunteers across the nation honoured for supporting kids in care

Empowering children to believe in themselves and their ability to achieve their goals is a special gift few people get the opportunity to give in their lifetime.

But those like our 12 Pyjama Angel of the Year winners of 2019 are afforded the opportunity to share in this gift each and every week.

This year our winners absolutely stopped us in our tracks with their commitment, love and ownership of their Pyjama Angel roles.

We’ve heard some remarkable stories about their time together, from learning to shave to riding a bike and everything in between.

In New South Wales, our winner Julian Bowker had entered the life of the young man he supports at a tumultuous time and despite having to put up with a lot, always “persevered with patience and compassion”.

“As A’s caseworker, I have had numerous conversations with Julian around supporting A in any way we can,” she the child’s case worker.

“Julian’s advocacy and determination is second to none and is of great benefit for not just A, but for everyone involved.”

 

Megan Guenther and Julian Bowker of NSW

Back in Queensland, we had the opportunity of honouring another special Pyjama Angel who has been part of our family for more than 11 years.

Brisbane’s Karen Cutlack was placed in a home back in 2008 where she remained throughout many years, supporting more than 40 children in this time.

The foster carer she has supported throughout this time said every child she came in contact with, “loved her, trusted her and respected her”.

“Karen knew all of the kids well, their strengths, weaknesses, everything.” She said.

“I don’t know how she does it. She knew how to treat them all individually but also altogether too. She has a magic gift.”

The Pyjama Foundation Founder and CEO Bronwyn Sheehan said knowing people like Karen and Julian were ready and waiting to make a difference in the life of a child in care was one of the reasons she founded the Foundation 15-years-ago.

“People like Karen make me all the more committed to continue this vital work and reach the thousands of children in care we are yet to support,” she said.

Ms Sheehan said the Foundation is always looking for new volunteers to come on board and help support all the children desperately awaiting their arrival.

“We love welcoming new volunteers, however if you would like to support but don’t have time to visit each week a donation is just as significant in ensuring the sustainability of our Program,” she said.

Congratulations to all those who were honoured at this years Pyjama Angel of the Year Awards. Including: Sandra McNally of Toowoomba, Gillian Vaughan-Jones and Jean Shaw of the Gold Coast, Ann-Maree Paynter of Ipswich, Lisa Crompton of Gladstone, Moya Mullins of the Sunshine Coast, Robert Shaw of Mackay, Natasha Jones of Logan, Alisa Patterson of Cairns, Phil Wilson or Melbourne and Lesley and Bev of Townsville.

Cowboys star inspires children in foster care with love of learning

When North QLD Cowboys footballer John Asiata isn’t on the field or with his family, you can often find him supporting children in foster care.

As a volunteer with The Pyjama Foundation, John is one of 1400 volunteers providing learning guidance, support and mentorship for kids in care.

This year he’s gone one step further encouraging his community to join forces for National Pyjama Day on July 19.

On this day each year, businesses and schools across Townsville wear their pyjamas to raise vital funds and awareness to support children on the foster care system.

In Townsville, this Program is made extra special with the addition of John, who moves between the homes of different children sharing the joy of sports with them.

One of The Foundation’s Townsville carers detailed just how special the interaction is for her children.

“All the children love spending time with their respective Angels because they feel that they are not being judged but accepted for who they are,” she said.

“A special mention to John Asiata who came out to see the kids. It was a buzz for the kids to have a game of footy with John.

“Toby* is a big fan of the Cowboys. John stayed for some time talking to all the children in our home and they asked a lot of questions and they listened to his stories.

“He is such a lovely individual who makes it that little more special. He is an asset to have on board and I know the kids are thrilled to see him.”

Founder of The Pyjama Foundation, Bronwyn Sheehan says the number of foster children is continuing to grow every year and without extra support, empowerment and encouragement, many of the children’s futures will be compromised.

“Currently there are more than 48,000 children in foster care, and statistics show that more than 30,000 of these children will not complete high school.

“Many children in care bounce from home to home, and to difference schools which greatly hinders their learning.

Funds raised from National Pyjama Day will go towards the recruitment and training of more Pyjama Angels as well as learning resources for the children including books, puzzles and educational games.

Last year more than 1,800 participants donned their Pyjamas and raised a total $250,000. This year we hope to continue growing this number and helping children in need receive the educational support they urgently need.

To get involved, register your workplace, school or group for National Pyjama Day at www.nationalpyjamaday.com.