The double-edged sword of volunteering

Volunteering is undoubtedly a worthwhile way to spend your time; there’s often not a more worthwhile feeling than bettering yourself through acts of charity and helping those in need. But when we help others, we often forget to take care of ourselves, resulting in burnout and other nasties. We have some important strategies to make sure you can still do you and continue being an awesome volunteer.

 

  • Ask for help

If your friends were asked to describe you, what would they say? You’re generous, would drop everything to help them, support them during a rough time? Helping when asked is admirable, but don’t forget to ask someone to help you.

We are lucky to live in a time where there are many options available should you need some extra assistance. Even if you don’t volunteer, being on the front foot with your mental health shouldn’t be unusual. You have the opportunity to speak with a qualified professional in a safe space, and therefore have a healthy outlet where you can speak without fear.

 

  • Voice your concerns

Once in a while, you might hear or see something that concerns you about the health and/or wellbeing of the child in your placement. What do you do? Don’t place the responsibility onto yourself – we’re here to help!. During your induction process, you’ll be walked through on what to do if you see or hear something that leaves you feeling slightly unsettled.

 

  • Indulge yourself

Or, in today’s lingo, treat yo’self! Do something you love for yourself because you definitely earned it. Think about the last time you had a weekend away or had someone else cook for you. What is something you enjoy but haven’t had the time for lately?

 

  • Say no

You’re not obliged to accept every invitation or do every chore people ask of you. Saying NO is the best way to take care of yourself, and your prioritise. You have people in your life who won’t take you saying ‘no’ personally. Sometimes invitations might clash with your volunteering, and that’s okay!

 

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6 Things About Foster Kids You May Not Have Known

Volunteer

6 Things About Foster Kids You May Not Have Known

Foster kids are usually thought of as ‘having it rough’. They come from broken homes, move around frequently and this series of events will follow them into adulthood. This stereotype is glaring, leaving little room for facts. We’ll tell you some of the truths about foster kids, good and bad, and hope you go away feeling slightly enlightened (or more sobered) about the subject.

 

  • Success stories do exist

Not all foster children are at a disadvantage when they grow up, despite the stereotype. Some are adopted into their foster families and have a stable, healthy lifestyle. Some foster children have gone on to become carers and caseworkers. Others work in a range of jobs, from baristas and warehouse workers to 9-to-5 office jobs.

 

  • Foster kids do it tough

This is unfortunately true in most circumstances. The Australian government and non-for-profit CREATE, estimate over 70% of foster children were ‘repeat clients’ of the system. The cycle of abuse in families, whether it be physical or otherwise, is hard to break. Hence children reappear in the system after they go back home.

Another disadvantage is not having other basic life skills they need to live comfortably. One example of this is Hayden Frost*. In a report by the ABC, he is considered a success story of the system in the fact he has a stable job and a good home. But he doesn’t have a driver’s license because he had nobody to help him.

 

  • There aren’t enough families to go around

In New South Wales, as reported in 2016, there’s an urgent need for at least 660 new carers for the overwhelmed foster system. An increase in carers would mean 300 children could instantly be moved to new homes and therefore to safety.

 

  • They want to be heard

 

CREATE conducted a survey, known as a ‘report card’, that was distributed to 10,000 children in the foster system across Australia. They were encouraged to make comments, and the children spoke their mind. Some of the comments included:

  • Wanting the freedom to choose their placement home
  • Dissatisfaction with the disruptions that came with moving frequently e.g. settling into home, changing schools etc.
  • Wanting contact with siblings, or to be moved into a placement together
  • To be treated the same as the biological children in their foster families
  • Warm, supportive and caring homes provided the bulk of ‘good’ placements

 

  • Some are very young

Pregnant women in unfortunate circumstances are tagged by the child protection system during their pregnancies and can be separated from their babies in the hospital. This can occur to mothers with a history of drug and alcohol abuse, as well as women who have no place to live and often sleep on the street. Infants are brought into care straight from the hospital, at only a few days old.

 

  • They can go home

Though not often reported, this can happen if the home is deemed safe for the foster child to return to. Sometimes removal is a wake-up call for parents to turn their life around.

 

There’s more to read here;

Love of learning program

Pyjama Angels; how you help kids in foster care

Pyjama Angels; how you help kids in foster care

There’s talk of guardian angels that watch over and protect us during the difficult times in our lives. They aren’t seen or heard but we trust they exist. Pyjama Angels are much like guardians, but they’re definitely seen, heard and appreciated.

 

Qualities of Pyjama Angels

 

Empathetic: Children in care have experienced little kindness or compassion in their short lives. As a Pyjama Angel, it’s your job to be empathetic and understanding. You’re one of few positive presences in your charge’s life who can make a difference. Simply showing up with a smile does wonders.

 

Patient: Kids in care have lower literacy skills. It’s common for them not to feel confident in reading or writing, and they might shut down when it gets difficult. Pyjama Angels don’t force children to read or berate them when they make a mistake. They’re patient and guide their mentee right.

 

Generous: Pyjama Angels are generous with their time. One hour a week might not seem like much, but it makes a world of difference in the long run.

 

Encouraging: Each step forward, no matter how small, is a success. One day you’re encouraging your charge to read along with you. A year later they could be reading books on their own accord, not just because it’s their ‘Angel visit day’.

 

Unfortunately, children in foster care have missed out on their right to a stable, happy family home and a decent start to their education. 92% of young children in care, around 7 years old, have below-average reading skills. 35% of foster children commit crimes and are sentenced to juvenile detention. As a Pyjama Angel, you have the opportunity to stop your charge from becoming one of those statistics. One encouraging statistic is that 84% of children mentored by Angels have a brighter, more positive mood since starting the Love of Learning Program.

A Pyjama Angel helps kids in care by simply showing up. They make reading enjoyable. Education is fun again thanks to games. The children in the program are more likely to read, complete homework and have a more positive outlook on life because their mentor comes once a week. One hour is small. But it makes a big difference.

4 Reasons You Should Invest Your Time in The Love of Learning Program

People are raised with the common belief that there is good to be found in everyone. This goodwill is often expressed through charitable acts, from caring for your children to donating time, money, or goods to different causes. One of the causes that might appeal to you is youth mentoring and children’s education. So, why […]

How one-on-one mentoring helps youth combat life obstacles

Mentoring is nothing new. Arthur had Merlin, Cinderella had a fairy godmother, and Mark Zuckerberg had Steve Jobs. One-on-one mentoring helped all these characters achieve great things, both in fiction and real life. Pyjama Angels are unsung heroes in daily life, but the impact from their one-on-one mentoring has helped young people rise to the challenge life throws at them.

 

So how does one-on-one mentoring help little kids and young people?

 

Children in foster care have a hard time at school thanks to their circumstances; they can’t pay attention, refuse to interact, or start fights with classmates to name a few problems. This comes from past trauma and generally low self-esteem. Pyjama Angels mentor a young person to help them with their education. This can be something as simple as reading a book.

It’s never too soon to start

Pyjama Angels are a positive influence in their mentee’s life. That one hour a week helps the children cope with school. Thanks to their Pyjama Angel, they’re finishing homework, reading books without being asked, and getting better report cards each term.

 

One-on-one mentoring with a child in foster care sets them up for success in their young adult life. They’re more likely to seek out a good circle of friends over a crowd that is likely to break the rules. Young people who get mentoring early in life are more likely to graduate high school and might even become a mentor themselves as an adult. Their outlook on life is also more positive, mentees grow up to realise that despite their past, they are worthy of a good job, a happy home, and being safe.

 

One-on-one mentoring is challenging for both mentors and their child in the beginning. An important trait in Pyjama Angels is their resilience. They’re empathic, kind, supportive, and also push their mentee, but within reason. Pyjama Angels are screened, trained, and matched with a child in the Love of Learning Program. The first few weeks, if not months, will be challenging because you’re getting to know each other; trust and rapport need to be built. But relationships need time to grow. And who knows? Within a year, mentees might go from hating books to reading three a week!

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