Everyday Angels – Ashleigh & Rose

Welcome back to our “Everyday Angels” series, where we share the stories and experiences of our Pyjama Angels. This time, we’re excited to share the story of Pyjama Angel Ashleigh in her own words…

Introducing Ashleigh & Rose

My name is Ashleigh and I have had the privilege of being a Pyjama Angel for about 6 and a half years. I have had 2 placements during that time. The first a beautiful little boy this placement was short but sweet last for about 6 months. My second placement commenced with a then 10 year old girl, who I am going to refer to as Rose. Rose is 15 years old. She is sassy, vibrant, extremely kind, and keeps me on my toes.

So what do we do on our visits?

Our activities over the years have varied, and continue to change as her interest and hobbies evolve. We read together, bake, and play games; from chess to uno to cards, she often beats me. During one year, to help her foster carer out and enable Rose to participate in a co-curricular activity, we went to dance class each week! That was an experience for both of us.

Now that Rose is a little older we spend most of our visits doing homework, chatting about life, or ‘book club‘ as we refer to it. Except of course on the school holidays, when we go on excursions – our favourite being going to the movies. I hate to admit it, but we share the same love of D-grade romcoms. We started ‘book club’ when I was a way for a couple of weeks overseas. It was a way that we could stay connected, and on our weekly phone calls debrief about our favourite characters and scenes within the book. We have continued on with ‘book club’, even though I think Rose reads about 5 books to my 1, much to her disgust.

Earlier this year we were lucky enough to be included in the new Teen Life Skills Program, which is an incredible initiative that The Pyjama Foundation has taken on board.

Rose and I participated in the first Teen Life Skills activity at the Jamie Oliver Cooking Course. In true teen style, on my way to pick her up on the first day I received a message saying that she didn’t want to go. Nevertheless, I picked her up anyway and boy – was she grumpy!

However, in the car on the way to the course it gave us an opportunity to discuss being nervous to try new things and meet new people. By the time I dropped her home that day Rose couldn’t stop smiling. We had had the best day working as a team and learning new skills that she can use in her daily life; I also learnt a thing or two! She couldn’t wait to go to the second day.

We are both looking forward to the next activities including going to dress for success to prepare her for getting her first job. Other life skills that the Program has provided support and resources around include resume writing, and getting her first bank account.

Rose and I even have our own traditions!

It has become a tradition for us that over the Christmas school holidays we do two activities. The first, reflecting on the year that was. We do this through the making of a photo book, in which she chooses important memories from each month of the year; then we both set a couple of goals for the new year.

Rose has already started her list for 2023: turn sweet 16, get a drivers license, get a job at Kmart, go to a school dance, (and my favourite) focus more at school. These are just some that have already made it to her list.

Wish me luck! I think it is going to be a busy year of milestones.

Our relationship has grown and changed with Rose’s needs…

For the first four years I visited Rose with her wonderful foster carer, situations changed and in the last year Rose has entered a kinship arrangement with her aunt and uncle. I am extremely grateful that we have been able to continue visits. As Rose informed me the other day, by the end of this year I will be the most consistent person she has had in her life.

Being able to move with her, and have the consistency of weekly visits, has been extremely important for Rose. She has had periods of significant change and periods where the future has been unknown for her in terms of where she would be living. Being able to be one of things that doesn’t change in her life and that she can rely on week to week, I believe, has helped her feel secure. It also tells her that there will be someone who turns up on a Tuesday that helps her with homework, that she can talk to about the highs and lows of being a teenager, and that will be a part of her life without conditions.

Now I will admit it hasn’t all been fun and games. She has had to experience far more life challenges than any 15-year-old should have had to. Throughout our time I have witnessed Rose change from a hesitant child, not sure of how to express her emotions, scared to disappoint anyone so as a result resistant to try anything new in case she lost or wasn’t good at something, to a vibrant young lady who is still a little hesitant at times, but willing to give things a try at least once.

If I could sum it up…

“7 years ago I set out to find a volunteer program where I could give back to my community, and instead I found a little girl who has given me just as much (if not more) joy than I will ever be able to hope to give her in return. The program has been life changing for both of us and I can’t thank Bronwyn enough for daring to dream.”

Thank you Ashleigh for sharing your story. We are so incredibly grateful to have wonderful Pyjama Angels such as yourself supporting young people in need.

Every week The Pyjama Foundation supports 1100 children just like Rose. To help a young person in care, apply to be a Pyjama Angel here. Still unsure? Hear another story from a former child in our Program, here.

*Please note – names in this story have been changed for privacy and anonymity of both the Pyjama Angel and child.