Meet Christine, The Birthday Angel
At The Pyjama Foundation, the child is at the centre of everything that we do. Every year on their birthday, the children in our program receive a book and a handmade card with a very special birthday message.
But we couldn’t make this happen without one very special volunteer, Christine the Birthday Angel.
Every week, Christine comes into the office with her 16 year old dog Adele, and hand picks out a birthday card and book that is suitable to each and every child. Christine truly goes above and beyond to make these children feel special on their birthday. So why does she do it? Well, we decided to ask her…
How long have you been volunteering at The Pyjama Foundation?
“I think it was 2011, I think. I think I did my training in October of 2010, and I did my first placement in 2011. I’ve been with the same family all that time, with different children.”
What made you want to volunteer in the office? You come in every week!
“When I first came in I was doing follow up calls, like ringing up and asking how everything is going, etcetera, and that was lovely. It’s just an amazing organisation, it really is, and to be involved – it’s got such a beautifully positive energy. And I thought it would be really nice, because I had spare time and was repurposing my life, and it just seemed a really good fit to come in and be able to help out with the office as well as with a foster family.”
How do you pick which books will go to each child for their birthday?
“What we try and do is we look at, because we have a way of ascertaining a child’s background, so that is a big factor in the cards we choose. We try and match that. We also look at where they come from, so we try and match location with what we send out.”
So you come in every week, and choose cards and gifts so that each child receives something for their birthday. What would you like to share about that?
“I would like to put it on record that this is just the end product of an incredible team because we have volunteers who make the cards, office people who collate all of the names and birthdays, and keep those up to date. We receive, the organisation receives, by post, people just send the cards and then here they are! The volunteering makes life so much easier for all of us, what people are doing to help behind the scenes. So this (what I do) becomes just like the funnel where all of the effort has gone into there.”
Where do the books come from?
“Bronwyn is always on the lookout for age appropriate material so that I can come in here on a Monday and have a pile of things that she sourced. She’s got an excellent reputation with some really good publishers, so they come in and donate. There’s quite a diversity of resources. One of the things that we’ve really enjoyed in the past is the generosity of Hinkler and DK. They recently sent us a few great joke books, which you could imagine that the boys absolutely love. We’ve also got the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books and the Andy Griffiths Tree House books, that we use to try and engage reluctant users in something that they can pick up and say ‘it’s a book, but it’s fun’, like they’ll tell you a joke from the book and eventually realise that they’ve been reading and enjoying it.”
Do gifts go to kids of all ages?
“Yes we do! Our age range is, well, the most children that we send out to are probably between 9-14, and a lot of boys. The youngest is around 1 and the oldest, we’re still sending to young adults over 18. Eveyr child who is on our books, whose address is current, will receive a birthday book and card every year, as long as they are on our books. This is pretty incredible really, if you think about it.”
“That’s a reflection of the organisation, and just wanting to honour the kids.”
So do you send out a book, or a book and an activity?
“We try as far as possible to include something for reading, which could be an activity book that has reading in it. We have a lot of books just for reading and it’s really lovely for the angels when they can read with the children. We’ve also got lots of colouring, a lot of things that are age appropriate and gender appropriate as far as possible given the information that we’ve got.”
What activities would you send out?
“We had these donated recently, wellbeing journals. So these go out with pencils, colour pencils, for the children to fill in and track how they’re feeling. So it’s helping. We’ve also got these lovely, lovely colouring books that just allow kids to create.”
Is there anything else to share?
“People are so clever in putting this together. As I said, and Sally comes in with me to volunteer, we just couldn’t do it without all the preparation had gone into it. For that, we’re very grateful.”
Final question – do you enjoy it?
“Absolutely. Absolutely. It’s wonderful. It’s part of giving back, which is one of the philosophies of the organisation isn’t it? Enriching the lives of the children.”
“It’s a great blessing to be able to do this.”
Thank you Christine for your outstanding commitment, kindness and care. You truly make a difference in the lives of children in foster care across Australia.
Are you interested in volunteering? Find out more here.