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?

Thinking outside the box: fun and resource free activities to enjoy!

Staying fresh with new and exciting activities can be difficult on your weekly visits. In order to nurture a creative spirit within your child, simple educational yet fun games are often the way to go. Utilising minimal, if any, resources is the best way to get our little ones thinking. These allow to have an enjoyable and entertaining experience that works in any environment with as little or as many players as possible.

We believe these are the best go-to games if you’re ever feeling stuck for ideas or equipment, but still looking for a fun time!

  • I Spy

A tremendously easy yet addictive detective game that involves guessing an object in the vicinity chosen by another player. Provide an adjective about what you see and watch as the other player attempts to find it.

  • Story together

Start with an intriguing first sentence, then have fun with the plot as you take turns narrating each sentence of the story, making it up as you go!

  • Charades

Only requiring a pen and paper, Charades is the perfect game to act out an idea or concept without making a sound. Once an idea has been selected, you or your team have three minutes to guess what charade you are acting out. If your team is able to guess your charade, your team receives a point. The other team then gets a chance to score a point. This continues until you run out of ideas, where, at this point, the team with the most points wins.

  • Remember what you see

We LOVE this one. Challenge your child’s observation skills in this quick memory game! Choose a direction that should be stared in for 30 seconds, then have the child turn around and write a list of the names of everything they remember seeing in that direction, the more detailed the better! The player with the longest list wins.

  • Scattegories

Scattegories is the ultimate simplistic yet challenging game that demands quick thinking and speedy fingers. Played using a pen and paper, this search for words requires players to provide an answer for each category. The game starts from a specific letter, and within a predetermined time limit (e.g. a minute). Possible categories include girl name, boy name, animal, movie, country, food, etc. The child will score a point if no other player matches their answers. So yes, the most unique and creative responses merit the most points. Continue with different letters for as long as you like and to win the game, score the most points!

  • The Uhm game

Test their conversational ability. The Uhm game requires the child to be given a topic, object, idea or thing to describe. Players must speak about this ‘thing’ for as long as they can without saying the word “um”. The longer the child can go without accidentally slipping it in, the better! Warning: it is very tricky!

 

For more hands-on activities to try out with your kids, check out our arts & crafts, science and fun food blog posts!

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.

Carers influential in allowing kids in care reach full potential

Eight years ago, foster carer Penny Hallett’s desire for equal opportunities for all children saw her dedicate her life to providing care.

Inspired by her experience as a volunteer for The Pyjama Foundation, Penny and her husband began to explore the idea of becoming foster carers.

In 2008, Penny’s journey began when she was matched with a young boy in care through the Foundation’s Love of Learning Program. Together they played educational games, read stories, built confidence and set the child up to be much more than what life had given him.

Penny went on to mentor another young girl, where she met a foster carer who had cared for children for over 40 years and inspired Penny to explore becoming a carer herself.

In 2011, Penny and her family embarked on the process and became full time foster carers.

This Foster and Kinship Carer Week we celebrate the wonderful people in our community just like Penny. People who are opening up their hearts and homes for children in out of home care.

“As a volunteer with The Pyjama Foundation, you are able to form a positive relationship and encourage a love of learning,” she said.

“We would read books together, sometimes we would go outside and enact the stories that sparked their imagination, or just jump on the trampoline and laugh a lot.

“The children I mentored and have in my home have the most heart wrenching stories, but you know what, they just get on with it.

“Apart from all the ‘mum things’, I see my role as a Foster Carer as being my kids advocate until they can do that for themselves.

“I can’t imagine my life not being involved with kids in care, and I am grateful for the lifelong friendships I have made with other carers and all the wonderful staff at The Pyjama Foundation.”

Child Safety Minister Di Farmer congratulated Penny on her support for children in care, both as a Pyjama Angel and now as a foster carer.

“The men and women who volunteer to be foster carers are some of the kindest and most caring I’ve met,” she said.

“Penny has given some children who need some love and support her time, care and attention both as a Pyjama Angel, then as a foster carer.

“Penny’s opened her heart, and then her home. You really can’t underestimate just how life changing that kind of support can be to the children who are looked after by our carers.”

The number of children in the out of home care system continues to rise in Australia. There is now more than 9,000 children currently in foster and kinship care in Queensland.

Foster and Kinship Carer Week runs from 21-28 April and aims to celebrate and thank people like Penny for their continued work. These special people are ensuring the most vulnerable children have a loving place to call home.

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.

Research identifies educational disadvantage of children in Out of Home Care

Australian children in Out of Home Care may struggle to keep up with their peers and reach national literacy and numeracy benchmarks as a study by the Queensland University of Technology’s Australian Centre for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Studies (ACPNS) has identified.

The research suggests a large portion of the 48,000 Australian children currently in foster care are at a high risk of becoming disengaged with schooling, making them more vulnerable to educational disadvantage.

The study, conducted by Dr Ruth Knight examined research in Australia and overseas that identifies what puts children in foster care situations at risk, what can protect them, their educational outcomes and existing intervention programs to improve these outcomes.

The Pyjama Foundation’s Founder and CEO of  Bronwyn Sheehan said this research reflects the need to focus intervention programs alike the Love of Learning Program that are focussed on improving educational outcomes for children in foster care.

“This research provides insight into the current educational landscape for children in care and the need for early intervention and strong supportive relationships that encourage learning,” she said.

“It highlights the strengths of The Pyjama Foundation’s Love of Learning Program, a mentoring syllabus focused on improving literacy, numeracy and life skills through one on one reading sessions with a positive adult role model.

“The program involves trained volunteer learning mentors, known as Pyjama Angels, meeting regularly and doing one-on-one reading sessions with more than 1400 foster children across Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria.”

Dr Knight said the ACPNS study found there was a limited number of intervention programs that effectively address protective factors known to improve children’s educational engagement.

“Those protective factors include family stability with a carer who supports educational and extracurricular activities, access to books and other literacy materials, developing literacy skills as early as possible in life, and having adult mentors or tutors for at least 12 months to build cognitive and social skills,” she said.

“The most successful intervention programs for children in care are ones based on positive relationships with teachers, care givers and case workers, which take into account trauma, provide flexible learning, and which support children to genuinely love learning.

“This review shows that there are only a few of these programs available.”

This literary review is instrumental in validating the work of The Pyjama Foundation’s Love of Learning Program, which has been changing the direction of children’s lives for more than 14 years.

To read the report in full, please visit our website.

 

Helping Foster Children Stay On Task

“Concentration is like a muscle that requires regular exercise to strengthen. Some kids are born “stronger” in this area than others, but all kids can learn strategies and engage in practices that help improve their ability to focus and sustain their attention”

– Dr. Jamie Howard

Children in out of home care often lack interest in learning and find difficulty in concentrating and staying on task. With 92% of children in care below average reading skills by the time they are seven years of age and struggle to catch up, it is important as mentors to help our children build and train their ‘concentration muscle’.

Here are some tips for our Pyjama Angels to implement in visits to help their children stay on task.

1. Set A Plan

It can be a good idea to create a plan for your visits. At the beginning of your visit you can work with your child to write out a set plan for the visit. This gives both you and your child the opportunity to decide what you will aim to achieve within your visit.

2. Set Time Lengths For Tasks

When setting a plan or just completing tasks, it is important to set appropriate time lengths for specific tasks. As a Pyjama Angel, you will get to know the typical time length your child will concentrate and focus on a task. Use your understanding to set appropriate time lengths on tasks you aim to complete.

3. Use Timers

When aiming to complete a task for a specific time, it can be helpful to utilise timers or stopwatches. Clocks or stopwatches can provide a visual aid for children, and help them understand when a task will finish.

4. Planned Breaks

It is also important to ensure that you build in planned breaks. After spending some time concentrating, it is useful to take a break whether that be a small physical break such as throwing a ball around or trying a Brain Gym exercise.

Brain Gym

These exercises can be utilised if child become distracted or simply as a planned break. These small physical activities will re-engage the brain and can help a child re-focus on a set task.

* Brain Gym exercises adapted from margdteachingposters.weebly.com/thinking-processes

 

Incorporating these tips will hopefully see your visits become more productive and time efficient, though it it important to remember that every child is unique and requires different techniques. Be patient and kind and see what works best for you and your child during your visits.

If you ever feel stuck and need any assistance or tips, our team is available for a chat at 07 3256 8802 between 9-5pm Monday-Friday.