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