Community

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

Townsville volunteer helps preppie soar

Back to school after the holiday break can be a terrifying time for many children, particularly those in the foster care system.

But thanks to dedicated Townsville Pyjama Angel volunteer Robyn Narratone one child’s experience has been far more positive.

Lexi* was just two-years-old when Robyn was first matched as her Pyjama Angel.

Fast forward three years and countless hours of reading together and playing educational games, Lexi has soaring confidence and Foster Carer Sarah* said she couldn’t be more grateful for the support Robyn has provided.

“When our two-year-old began to develop an interest in language and books, we referred her to the Pyjama Angel Program and her Pyjama Angel Robyn has been such a great support to her ever since,” she said.

“I think for Lexi a key benefit was providing that individual, focused attention. As the middle child and having a brother with additional support needs, it was difficult for Lexi to get the learning support which was needed in order to catch up with her age group and develop foundational skills.”

Sarah said one of her very favourite moments was coming home from work and hearing little Lexi reading ‘Where is the Green Sheep’ by herself for the very first time.

“Weekly sessions have provided effective early intervention to support the development of a range of skills for school readiness, including following instructions, focusing on tasks, being able to talk and listen, identifying numbers and letters, basic manners, writing her name and taking turns,” she said.

“She has continued to thrive with Robyn’s support and we can see that she is set up for success with schooling.”

The Pyjama Foundation North QLD regional coordinator Mel Vaughan said quality interaction with adults in the early years is vital for educational success.

“We have a number of Pyjama Angels in our program, who are matched with toddlers or children about to start school,” she said.

“These volunteers provide positive learning experiences in a safe environment and build a love of reading and learning that will hopefully transfer to formal schooling experiences.

“Robyn sang simple nursery rhymes to Lexi, played counting games, read books, improved fine motor skills through finger painting and play-dough and completed puzzles.

Meet Mel Green – Ipswich New Coordinator

 

 

We sat down with our new Ipswich Coordinator, Mel Green, 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 ‘Ipswich Coordinator’?

I have always had a passion for helping other people and helping fundraise and run events for many not-for-profit organisations or just “good causes” – Since having my almost 6 year old I have considered becoming a Foster Carer myself and just last year completed a Teacher’s Aide course with the view of helping kids in school as well as my own son with his learning now that he’s just started Grade 1 – I saw The Pyjama Foundation to be a great opportunity to combine both of these and to be involved in helping kids in our local area that need it more than most. I couldn’t turn up an opportunity to be a part of that.

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

Meeting new people in our community and listening to all the great stories of the success our Pyjama Angels have in creating relationships and making a difference in these kids’ lives as well as their own.

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

At the moment the biggest challenge is learning more about the families we can help and the volunteers we currently have to make the best matches for success in our Love of Learning Program.

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

My biggest goal right now is to find as many new volunteers as possible to match up as many of the kids we have already waiting to be placed in our program that are yet to know what it’s like to have a Pyjama Angel in their life and what that can mean for them.

 What are you passionate about? / What drives you?

Being able to help people that don’t always get all the opportunities that others get in life.

 What do you like to do in your spare time?

I go to the gym, love family time including our 2 fur babies, camping, eating out at new places and also our favourite’s, hanging out with good friends – and LOVE to go on holidays, see places that I haven’t seen before, meet people and learn about different cultures from real people (not a tour guide).

 What are your favourite places to visit in Ipswich?

Kholo Gardens (so beautiful and peaceful), Ipswich Nature Centre, Workshops Museum, Bundamba Swimming Pool, Any of the walks/bike tracks around – especially the dinosaur footprints!

 What’s your favourite quote?

To make a difference in someone’s life you don’t have to be brilliant, rich, beautiful or prefect – you just have to care – Mandy Hale

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

I once moved more than 10 times in one year – and I hate moving!

 What’s your favourite children’s book?

It’s hard to pick just 1 – there are so many, but my favourite author is Dr Seuss – not only are his books fun to read, bright and happy, they all have underlying meanings or some kind of learning in a fun, playful way.

Foster carers empowered with unique training

In Australia, there are more than 48,000 children in the foster care system and of this number, approximately 75 per cent won’t finish high school.

The reality is many of these children may have never felt a sense of love and support in their lives, leaving it up to their carers to put the pieces back together.

A training initiative launched in Victoria by Carer KaFE, in collaboration with The Pyjama Foundation is aiming to provide a new level of educational support.

In 2019, Carer KaFE will be working with The Pyjama Foundation to support carers in assisting their children with their learning, an area many of them may have never felt comfortable delving into.

It’s an area The Pyjama Foundation have been providing support in for more than 15 years, matching trained learning mentors with children in the system to provide educational support.

The Pyjama Foundation Program Manager Kevin Gallard said throughout his time training Pyjama Angel community volunteers he has met many wonderful carers who he describes as the “angels”.

“Our Love of Learning program allows us to support these carers by providing them with a special Pyjama Angel for their child, often giving them an hour of respite each week,” he said.

“This training takes this support one step further, empowering our carers with the tools to directly support their children with their education.

“Our program offers tried and tested learning methodologies which are research based and match the current curriculum.

“We demonstrate to foster parents how to support their children with literacy and numeracy in a fun and engaging manner.”

Launched in 2017, Carer KaFE provides learning and development opportunities for Kinship and Foster carers throughout Victoria.

Program Manager Penny Daly said this type of education was something carers were calling out for.

“Our evaluations and feedback from kinship and foster carers across the State told us that helping children and young people with their homework is something carers need support with,” she said.

“After seeing Kevin present at the Queensland National Foster Care Conference, we knew that we had found the perfect answer to the carers requests.

“Carers leave these sessions with a bag of wonderful resources that turn homework help into fun games.”

Kinship and Foster carers said the support received in this session was invaluable, providing strategies and resources to use for all ages.

“I felt stuck in helping my child educationally, now I have strategies to help and resources to use,” one said.

“I learnt new techniques to help my 6-year-old who at present hates school as she has issues with being told what to do. She won’t even know I am helping now,” said another.

For more information on Carer KaFE and its work in Victoria, www.carerkafe.org.au/.

Our Big Dreams Gala Ball 2018

One week ago, we hosted the night of all nights — an evening of glitz, glam and giving back. Guests came from as far as Western Australia to celebrate The Pyjama Foundation’s Big Dreams Gala Ball and raise much needed funds for children in foster care. Attendees were met with some of Brisbane’s best views, with the balcony of Room ThreeSixty at QUT providing a perfect outlook to the Story Bridge and Kangaroo Point.

The theme for this year’s event was inspired by the very core values of The Pyjama Foundation — every child should have the opportunity to dream big and go far. Each child should be given the tools to follow their wildest dreams!

Children living in out of home care often bounce between different homes and to different schools, which can affect their opportunities to read and learn, causing them to fall behind their peers academically. Dreams are no good if they remain just dreams and the Big Dreams Gala Ball was for the 52,000 Australian children living in foster care, with a focus on letting them know that their dreams and desires are just as valid as the next child’s.

Our guests were met at the door with a 9ft angel pouring bubbly for each willing patron (see below if you don’t believe us!), live entertainment, a photobooth setup worth marvelling at and a constantly stocked candy bar. It was a magical start to the evening!

We were lucky to be joined by former and present Pyjama kids, as well as many of our Pyjama Angels who continue to inspire us every day. Senior Executive Director, Accommodation, Respite and Forensic Disability Services at Department of Communities, Disability Services and Seniors Matthew Lupi was the entertaining MC for the evening, surprising guests with dream themed trivia between meals. Matthew welcomed the Honourable Di Farmer, Minister for Child Safety, Youth and Women and Minister for the Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence to give a powerful address to start off the evening.

Guests were thrilled with the banquet-style dinner, flowing beverages and incredible prizes. Our token instant win mystery envelopes were a hit again this year, with everyone walking away a winner thanks to our incredible prize sponsors! Raffle tickets were available to purchase on the night with more amazing prizes up for grabs, those who won the accommodation in Phuket and the Lamborghini driving experience were envied by all!

Our live auction also went off with a bang thanks to our friends at Watt Realty who got the crowd rearing for our big-ticket auction items! Accommodation on the ski slopes in Canada, a stay in a five-star lodge in Queenstown, and a private chef dinner in your own home all sold at generous prices to those in the room.

The money raised on the evening will go directly towards our Love of Learning Program which aims to improve the educational outcomes of children in foster care, just like 9-year-old Frankie who spoke about his special Pyjama Angel at our gala. A few words from his speech on the evening:

“Cathy has been visiting me for almost five years. The things we do together are read, play sport, watch movies, play iPad games, play with kinetic sand and sometimes go to the skate park. We have dinner together every week,” he said.

“I look forward to Wednesdays. Every Wednesday I ask mum, ‘Is Cathy coming today?’. I like Cathy a lot.

“Thank you for helping The Pyjama Foundation, so kids like me can have a special friend.”

There was so much love, laughter and great acts of generosity on the evening, to which we thank each person who attended. It was truly a wonderful night and we are so thankful to have spent it with so many people who are crucial to our foundation.

Thank you for supporting The Pyjama Foundation’s Big Dreams Gala Ball, we couldn’t have pulled it off without your support and we hope to see you all again next year.

Support kids in care this tax time

Everyday across Australia, children wake up in warm safe beds, have a healthy breakfast, head off to school in clean clothes and then come home each night to a loving family.  A family who feeds them, helps them with their homework, reads story books to them and most importantly, makes them feel safe and loved.

Unfortunately, in our lucky country, there are over 51,000 children who have not grown up like this.  For these children, their early years have not been warm and safe.  They have gone without food, gone without warm clothes, experienced violence and learnt more about the dark side of life than any child should have to.  Their early years have been full of neglect and trauma and as a result, these children have been removed from their families and placed into care.

Whilst we can’t change what has already happened to these children before they entered the foster care system, we can help to change their futures and give them some positive direction to help them dream big and then realise those dreams.

Support Kids in Care

Our very special Pyjama Angels do exactly this for ‘each and every’ one of the children they are matched with.  They form a very special bond with their child and work tirelessly, week in week out, alongside the foster carers, to bring confidence to these traumatised children, to help them ‘catch up’ at school and to achieve the simple things in life that millions of other children take for granted – things like simply being able to receive a school report card.

With the number of children entering the foster care system continuing to rise rapidly, we desperately need your help to bring the benefits of a Pyjama Angel to many more children in care.

It costs $1,000 for us to help just one child – $1,000 that could mean the difference between that child staying in school, completing their education and having a real chance at a positive life – or that child entering the same cycle of hopelessness that they originally came from.

As we rapidly approach the end of this financial year, please help us to help these children dream big and then have the power to realise those big dreams. Make a tax deductible donation before June 30.

Narissa’s story: how a mentor changed my life

After the loss of her father, Narissa entered the foster care system at just eight years old.

Separated from her mother who struggled with mental illness, Narissa began her life bouncing from home to home, eventually living with six different families throughout her time in foster care.

Now 21, Narissa is sharing her experiences of growing up in foster care to help foster children, and how one special ‘Pyjama Angel’ changed her life.

She lived a life of uncertainty and instability, but through a mentoring program offered by The Pyjama Foundation, Narissa was introduced to Ani Marinovich.

“I was in places where the only person that truly believed in who I was, and what I could do, was Ani, my Pyjama Angel,” Narissa said.

Pyjama Angels are volunteers who are screened, trained, recruited and matched with children in foster care. Together they spend an hour a week focusing on reading, writing and educational-based games.

“Ani helped me build my skills, particularly in English and writing. She was much more than my Pyjama Angel. She was someone who stood up for me, someone who spoke up for me, someone who encouraged me.

“Most of my life I felt very strongly that I was an outcast of some sort, that I was marginalised, and I was,” she said.

Often, it is the guidance and stability of these unique relationships which help these children truly thrive.
“Ani pushed me to see that I was better than what I thought I was – I wanted to be someone who can make a difference, who will change lives. But I didn’t believe I could do that, until Ani told me I could.

“She made a very big difference in my life. I would not be who I am now, without the support and love of Ani,” Narissa said.

The feeling is mutual as former Pyjama Angel, Ani Marinovich believes Narissa made a big impact in her life.

“To realise you’ve made a difference in someone’s life is an honour. Education is like a vital passport to the world. It’s the key to your life’s path, and it’s lifelong. My idea of education is to inspire a love of learning, instil the confidence to believe there is always a way, and belief that dreams are possible to achieve,” Ani said.

“To people considering becoming a Pyjama Angel, I say it will be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life.”
Narissa is now in her final year of University, studying a Bachelor of Justice, majoring in Criminology and Policing and Law.

The Pyjama Foundation encourages children in foster care to reach their dreams and full potential. To find out more about their Love of Learning mentoring Program, visit: www.thepyjamafoundation.com