The Pyjama Foundation Blog

Read about our latest adventures and glean some tips and tricks about helping children to grow, learn and flourish – it’s all here on The Pyjama Foundation Blog!

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.

Dad’s Day a chance to say thanks to our male role models

Father’s Day has a different meaning to everyone, but for children in foster care it can be a reminder of what they are missing and how important it is to have a positive male role model.

Townsville’s Andrew Pangrazio, 30, was placed with an 11-year-old boy living in care four years ago after volunteering as a mentor ‘Pyjama Angel’ as part of The Pyjama Foundation’s Love of Learning Program, which supports children in foster care.

The now 15-year-old aspires to become a mechanic and the weekly visits from Andrew where they practice hands on mechanical work was key to helping make this possible.

“My child has learning impairments and finds it easier to be working bikes or engines as it is his passion to become a mechanic,” the psychologist said.

“I try to combine as many instruction guides and manuals in our work to continue to work on focused reading.

“[He] doesn’t have many male role models in life so the male attention I believe has been healthy.”

The child Andrew visits is just one of the 95 children in care currently supported by a special Pyjama Angel volunteer in Townsville, a number the Foundation hopes will steadily increase with a total of 41 children currently waiting for a Pyjama Angel to come into their lives.

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

“B* waited a long time for a Pyjama Angel and Alex is absolutely perfect for him, he turns up to B’s soccer games and cheers him on from the sideline which we think is absolutely brilliant,” the carer said.

Currently, 93 per cent of The Pyjama Foundation’s volunteers are female and moving forward The Foundation is hoping to see more male involvement.

As a carer of young boys with Pyjama Angel’s, she sees the importance of the positive male role models and the difference it is making for her boys.

“The world needs more male Pyjama Angels, so many boys in care have never known a positive relationship with a man,” the carer said.

“It’s time we show our boys that there are good men out there that genuinely care and want to help them learn and help shape the young men they become.”

Pyjama Angel Andrew believes helping others is a form of self-help, acknowledging that connection and meaning are all major contributors to psychological wellbeing.

“I would encourage everyone to join and I think males especially as not only will the kids benefit from having healthy male role models in their life, but helping others is helping yourself and is an important lesson to teach the future generation,” he said.

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 51,000 children in foster care, and statistics show that approximately 32,250 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 learning.”

Head to www.thepyjamafoundation.com/volunteer to see if you’re eligible to become a Pyjama Angel to help support and mentor a child in foster care.

Great books you can read in the Love of Learning Program

The Love of Learning program is the only one of its kind. It provides children with the opportunity to strengthen their literacy and numeracy skills outside of school. But as a Pyjama Angel, you aren’t a tutor. You’re a mentor. Someone who can guide the children in the program and be a positive influence. You show them that reading isn’t really so bad. If you’re scratching your head about what to bring along, we have a few suggestions the could help:

2-3 years

The Empowerment series by Stephen Krensky celebrates the milestones children achieve at this age. This series has of four books: Now I am Big! I Can Do It Myself! I Know a Lot! I Am So Brave!

Another crowd favourite is the Clifford the Big Red Dog series by Norman Bridwell.

4-5 years

The works of Dr Seuss are perfect for this age group!

Other favourite reads of ours include What’s Cooking by Joshua David Stein and Pass it On by Sophy Henn.

6-7 years

The Pyjama Foundation firmly believes in cultivating the aspirations of foster children.

Goodnight stories for Rebel Girls by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo is a compilation of the stories of courageous women who challenged the status quo and changed the course of history. It is a great read for both girls and boys.

Another similar series is the Ordinary People Change the World Series by Brad Meltzer. Each book focuses on different key historical figures such as I am Neil Armstrong, I am Jane Goodall and I am Albert Einstein.

Read the book before the movie

8-9 years

This age is an excellent time to introduce the books by Roald Dahl. This is the man who quoted ‘Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it’. His books are great to include in the Love of Learning Program for that reason; to help children believe in magic. You don’t need to look much further than Willy Wonka for an excellent read. Other titles worth bringing include The Fantastic Mr Fox, George’s Marvellous Medicine and Matilda.

10-11 years

The books by Enid Blyton ignite the imaginations of children at this age. Blyton wrote her books early last century but they have endured the test of time. The books are large, but because the stories are written for children, they’re easy to understand. Some of the timeless and most popular series include The Magic Faraway Tree, The Wishing Chair and The Secret Seven

As a Pyjama Angel, you have full access to our dedicated resource library where you can pick up many of these books. We want our kids to use their imaginations, be engaged and love reading just as much as we do. We hope these examples can help your inspire kids to do just that.

Get more advice here:

The double-edged sword of volunteering

Love of learning program

Pyjama Angel of the Year Awards 2017

August marked Pyjama Angel Awards month, where throughout the month we showed our appreciation of all our Pyjama Angels who constantly go above and beyond for our Pyjama children.

Our Pyjama Angels are volunteers who are coached, recruited and paired with a child in foster care.

For an hour each week, they visit their Pyjama child and focus on educational-based activities, as an extra support system for foster children.

The aim of the program is not just about invaluable learning but also to show the child they are cherished and loved.

During August we shared posts on our various social media platforms including stories, photos and quotes from Pyjama Angels who have made a significant difference to the life of a child in care.

Pyjama Angels work from eleven regions including Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne as well as eight rural Queensland locations, and volunteers from each were nominated for Pyjama Angel of the Year Awards.

While only one Pyjama Angel from each region was named Pyjama Angel of the Year, we know that all our Pyjama Angels do incredible work and we appreciate the positive influence they are making on children’s lives.

We are constantly blown away by the enthusiasm, commitment and dedication our Pyjama Angels bring each and every week, and we are not the only ones who have noticed.

All our deserving Pyjama Angel Award winners were nominated for the awards, whether that was by their Pyjama child or the child’s carer.

Thank you Pyjama Angels for your contribution and ongoing support!

To see stories and photos from our amazing Pyjama Angels visit our Facebook and Instagram pages.

If you think you or someone you know would want to become a Pyjama Angel please don’t hesitate to visit us at www.thepyjamafoundation.com/volunteer/.

(Pictured L-R: NSW Coordinator, Megan Guenther, National Fundraising Manager, Deborah Scott-Ranson, NSW Pyjama Angel of the Year, Stella Angelo and Australia Post Representative and NSW State Manager, Colin Hindle)

Cat in the Hat Cocktail Party

We would thank you here or there,
We would thank you anywhere,
We would thank you in a wagon,
We would thank you on a dragon,
In the park, or at the zoo,
Cause that was awfully nice of you.
Thank you for spending a night with me,
Helping lots of kiddies in need.

A little over a month ago, we welcomed guests far and wide to join us for a night of fun and frivolity at The Pyjama Foundation’s Brisbane Cat in the Hat Cocktail Party as we raised much needed funds for kids in out of home care. Hosted at the State Library of Queensland, the party included live entertainment, endless photo booth opportunities and a crowd favourite candy bar!

Children living in foster care often bounce from different homes, to different schools, which can affect their opportunities to read and learn, causing them to fall behind their peers academically. The Cat in the Hat theme was a dedication to Dr Seuss, who wrote brilliant books that have inspired – and continue to inspire ­– children all around the world.

Instant win mystery box tickets and raffle tickets were available to purchase on the night with amazing prizes thanks to all of our incredible sponsors. Free trip to Phuket anyone?

By raising these funds, we are able to continue growing The Pyjama Foundations Love of Learning Program, and screen, train, recruit and match a volunteer ‘Pyjama Angel’ with a child in out of home care. Together, the child and Pyjama Angel read books aloud, focus on educational based activities, play games and so much more. Pyjama Angels become part of the family and are a constant positive support system when needed the most.

Former and present Pyjama kids joined us on the night, as well as many Pyjama Angel volunteers who continue to inspire us every day. The Executive Director of Child, Family and Disability Services Matthew Lupi was the entertaining MC for the evening, and welcomed the Honourable Shannon Fentiman, Minister for Communities, Women and Youth, and Child Safety and Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence to give a powerful address to kick off the evening.

The room was filled with love, laughs and great acts of generosity, to which we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

Thank you for supporting The Pyjama Foundation’s Cat in the Hat Cocktail party, and we hope to see you all again next year with more festivities.

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

Five educational ideas to bust boredom these school holidays

Let’s be frank, we all dread the phrase “I’m booored”, especially during school holidays! With 2 weeks of the school break, the boredom can quickly seep in if your children are not ‘entertained’.

We have put together 5 boredom-busting educational activities ideas you could get your kids involved with during the school holidays that won’t break the bank!

 

  1. Visit your local Museum or Art Gallery
    Visiting Museums and Art Galleries is always a great family outing and is the perfectly opportunity to spend time together having fun learning, exploring and seeing any new exciting exhibitions on display.
  2. Volunteer or teach your kids about giving
    Demonstrate an example of the gift of giving and show them how giving back to the community makes a huge difference. You could visit a nursing home and read books to the older adults. You could donate non-perishable food to the Salvos, or donate clothing to Vinnies!
  3. Reading and writing
    You could make reading and writing a whole lot of fun on the holidays. You can sit down with your kids and write your own story books! Using just a few pages of paper, and some colouring pencils, allow their imaginations to go wild as you plan, write and draw together! You could also get the children to photograph items around the house which you could print out and add to the book! Children love when they are a ‘part’ of a story so you could create something personal and something they’ll really enjoy. Once the book is complete, have a reading night with the family where the kids can show off their work!
  4. Catch the train or ferry for day trips
    Most children squeal at the idea of a bus, train for ferry ride. You could take the opportunity to take the kids to any destination of your choosing – whether it is the park, museum, art gallery, science centre or even your local shopping centre! Be sure to check out timetables for public transport when planning your trip.
  5. Cooking at home together
    Cooking together allows you to spend quality time with the kids while allowing them to learn cooking techniques and methods. Here are our favourite recipes that will surely keep both their hands and brains busy!

Popcorn chicken:

  • 3-4 cups vegetable oil
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup white flour
  • 2 tsp Cajun seasoning
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 boneless chicken breasts

Method

  • Cut the chicken breasts into small chunks.
  • Sift the flour and mix in the salt and cajun seasoning.
  • Dip the chicken in the egg then generously coat in the flour mixture.
  • Heat the oil in a pan. Drop a few drops of batter into the oil and if it sizzles and fries it is ready.
  • Add chicken to the oil in small batches and turn over to make sure both sides are cooked evenly.
  • Remove and drain on kitchen paper when golden. Leave to drain a moment or two so the chicken is crunchy. Sprinkle salt after to taste.

Three-Ingredient Nutella Brownies:

  • 1 ¼ cup of Nutella
  • 2 Large eggs
  • ½ Cup of all-purpose flour

Method:

  • Preheat oven to 180C. Grease a 20cm x 20cm metal baking pan. Add all the ingredients into a large bowl and mix until the batter is smooth. Pour into the baking pan and smooth the top with a spatula.
  • Bake for about 15 minutes until toothpick inserted comes our clean.
  • Be careful not to make it for too long, as the brownies will dry out.
  • Let the brownies cool and set before cutting and serving.

Give foster children the gift of reading and writing these school holidays. Donate or become a Pyjama Angel today at www.thepyjamafoundation.com

Brighten a child’s life this Christmas

Christmas is all about spending time with our family and friends, enjoying the festivities and the food and exchanging gifts. For most of us, Christmas brings us a sense of warmth, love and happiness.

Sadly, for many disadvantaged Australian children who cannot live with their own families, Christmas isn’t a joyous time at all.  Many have no happy memories of Christmas – let alone received a present.

This year, you can make a real difference and help brighten the lives of Australian kids living in foster care.

With a small donation, you can give a child in care the best present ever – their very own Pyjama Angel to support them and help make their future a positive and happy one.

At The Pyjama Foundation, our mission is to make children’s dreams a reality; whether they want to be a teacher, engineer or doctor, through helping these kids with reading and writing – our mission is to help little people with big dreams.

With your help and generosity, we can brighten the lives of more children in care this Christmas and into the future.

Kind regards,

Bronwyn Sheehan
Founder and Executive Director
The Pyjama Foundation

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