AS Australia continues to brave the COVID-19 storm, community spirit and kindness can be just as contagious, as we continue to cope with these unprecedented circumstances.
The Pyjama Foundation has been preparing for its biggest annual fundraiser, National Pyjama Day, celebrated on July 17th. The aim of the day is to raise as much awareness and funds for the Love of Learning Program, so The Pyjama Foundation’s mission can continually be pursued.
This year’s planning has looked very different for us and our registrants. Many obstacles have crossed our path as we discovered new and inventive ways to fundraise. CEO and founder Bronwyn Sheehan said absolutely loves how innovative people are being during these unparalleled times.
Melbourne Pyjama Angel, Stacey Lowry is back celebrating National Pyjama Day for a second time, defying all odds in her pursuit to make a difference.
Stacey has been working with “Miss 14” for two years. She says she just loves her mentoring role; it is one of the most rewarding things she has ever accomplished.
Stacey was conscious that the option of hosting a social gathering wasn’t available this year due to Melbourne’s strict lockdown laws.
“Last year I had so much fun hosting a dinner and movie screening to raise funds, I just knew I had to step it up with something even better to bring some love and happiness during these uncertain times,” she said.
With the intention of bringing joy to her local neighbourhood all while raising funds for a cause she is so passionate about; Stacy exercised her imagination.
“I have been baking handmade sourdough breads & sourdough banana breads for my friends. It’s been so hugely successful, that I am at my “baking capacity” for the next three weeks… Each day I bake, wrap and walk the neighbourhood hand delivering warm, baked treats to my friend’s front doors. It brings me so much joy seeing smiling faces at front doors across the suburb.”
Stacey continues to work with “Miss 14” on a week-to-week basis virtually all while channeling her inner Betty Crocker!
Stacey, The Pyjama Foundation would like to thank-you for your fierce passion, contribution and commitment to National Pyjama Day and your work with “Miss 14”.
Please continue to let your light shine!
As we find ourselves living through an unexpected and uncertain circumstance, I think it is so necessary to acknowledge and express gratitude for what brings love and light to our lives.
This was the exact mindset that prompted me to embrace the unknown and try something completely new. In April of 2019 a significant chapter in my life closed, I found myself experience emotions I never thought possible (including that ugly demon heartbreak). I have always been somebody who embraces a challenge, craves opportunity and has a generous nature. However, at this point in my journey I felt completely deflated.
I distinctly remember a phone call had with a dear friend, former Pyjama Angel, Melissa Caccamo.
Her words felt like sunshine.
She said “Flo, you need to find a way to divert all the love, positive energy and time you were feeding your relationship into something just as worthwhile’.
My friend reminded me of all the positive qualities I had to share with the world but had momentarily forgotten in the midst of sadness. Mel encouraged me to apply as a Pyjama Angel, give back to the community and be a ray of sunshine for a child who needed to be reassured that they are valued, worthy and loved.
Thank you for being my ray of sunshine that day and everyday Mel.
Without hesitation I applied that following day. Not long after I had my interview and attended training. I was shocked by the statistics around poor literacy and numeracy skills among children in care. However, I was more so enlightened, that spending only one hour a week with these children would help carve a positive outlook for their future.
Along the way I interacted with such passionate, likeminded and wholehearted individuals. The whole process just felt right. I knew that this was going to be such a special experience and I hadn’t even met my little cherub yet!
Typically, one Pyjama Angel is paired with one little person. However in light of embracing opportunity I was offered a dynamic duo, two brothers! I was paired with who I now like to call ‘Crazy number 1’ (aged 12) and ‘Crazy number 2’ (aged 9). I organically became ‘Crazy number 3’ (aged 23!).
My relationship with K&J began in August 2019 and the fun hasn’t stopped since!
Together we have;
- Planted a vegetable patch
- Made slime
- Tackled puzzles and board games
- Kicked the soccer ball outside
- Read, researched and presented projects on their hobbies and interests
- Completed homework (after lots of convincing!) and sometimes;
- We just dance and sing like total crazies!
On a personal level, my passion for the non-for-profit sector and working with children has grown fiercely strong. I am also currently involved with The Pyjama Foundation team, working as a Marketing and Communications Assistant/Intern. This entire experience has prompted me to consider a return to university to study Youth Work. To nurture what I believe is my true calling!
Fostering a relationship with K&J has brought nothing but colour to my world. It helped turn such a dark and uncertain time into an incredible discovery of growth and opportunity. I feel grateful to be able to help these boys find a happier ending to their life story.
I thank The Pyjama Foundation for choosing me.
AFTER five years of unwavering dedication to The Pyjama Foundation, Townsville resident Susanne Gardner has been honoured in the 2020 Volunteering North Queensland Awards.
Sue took out the Volunteer Impact Award category, for her work touching the lives of more than 600 people throughout the Townsville community.
An extremely deserving acknowledgement for a woman who not only dedicates time every week to support a child in foster care, but is also fundamental in keeping The Foundation’s resource library organised for other volunteers, as well as acting as vice president of the Townville Toy Library, secretary of the Probus Club and volunteer at St Joseph’s Catholic School The Strand.
North QLD coordinator Mel Vaughan said above all Sue is an incredibly beautiful person who has a quiet wisdom and listens to the stories of others without judgement.
“We have a wide range of volunteers, from a range of backgrounds. Sue welcomes everyone into our Foundation with a smile. She has a quiet, calm presence and is a joy to be around,” she said.
Sue began her journey by training as a Pyjama Angel volunteer in 2016 and was initially placed with an 8- year-old boy to support him in building learning, life skills and confidence.
This little boy moved out of Townsville but that wasn’t going to be the end of Sue’s journey.
“His carer loved Sue so much she asked her the following week to continue visiting another child in her home,” Mel said.
“Of course, Sue agreed. Sue’s weekly visits help one little vulnerable girl know that she is special, loved and has opportunities- which is priceless.”
The award presented to Sue is part of 2020 National Volunteer Week celebrations occurring across the country.
Volunteering North Queensland’s acting manager Natalie Dukes said National Volunteer Week is an opportunity when we, as a North Queensland community, publicly thank, acknowledge and celebrate our wonderful volunteers.
“Throughout the nominations received for the four awards this year, there was such a strong theme of empowering others to make a difference.
Click here for more information about becoming a Pyjama Angel or to apply.
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.
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.
This is Zoe. Not only is she a Pyjama Angel, visiting a little 10 year old boy, she has also signed up for Pyjama Day and has created her own fundraising page – managing to gain support from her workplace to raise much needed funds for kids in foster care! We spoke to Zoe to know why she signed up and why it matters to her.
Why did you decide to sign up for Pyjama Day?
I signed up for Pyjama Day because I realised I could help. I knew I’d at least generate some interest among my friends and family, but also thought I could try and go one further and get the OK to fundraise more broadly in my workplace. I did this by stealing 5 minutes in my Executive Managers weekly meeting and walking into said meeting in my dressing gown and slippers. I then proceeded to tell them the story of my friend J* and how he and many other children are in these situations through no fault of their own, but there’s things we can do to help.
Are you planning to do anything exciting in particular on the day? Like a Bake Sale or morning tea?
I have made it very simple. Wear your dressing gown or slippers to work for a gold coin donation. This is simple enough that anyone can do it – even in a corporate environment, as it is easy to change bank into corporate attire for meetings! But it still sends a powerful message and gets peoples attention. It’s also a bit of fun and such a great idea in the middle of winter! Little did I know that I’d also receive support from colleagues offering to make food and sell it as part of the fundraiser. It all starts with an idea!
What made you sign up to become a Pyjama Angel?
I wanted to contribute more as a human being. I thought, have an hour I can spare each week and I can read!” Something so small can mean a lot to people, particularly those who don’t have the support we often take for granted.
What’s it like being a Pyjama Angel and can you describe your placement with the child?
I have been paired with my little buddy, 10-year-old J*. J is in residential care, which means he really doesn’t have much consistency when it comes to the people that are in his life. J likes dinosaurs, transformers, Lego and make believe. Like many kids with autism, he has trouble with his communication (which is where I come in). We have only had 5 visits so far, but we’re already at the stage where he comes running out to greet me with a big smile when I arrive. I can tell that he enjoys our visits and it is definitely the most rewarding part of my week.
In Australia, there are more than 48,000 children in the foster care system and of this number, approximately 75 per cent won’t finish high school.
The reality is many of these children may have never felt a sense of love and support in their lives, leaving it up to their carers to put the pieces back together.
A training initiative launched in Victoria by Carer KaFE, in collaboration with The Pyjama Foundation is aiming to provide a new level of educational support.
In 2019, Carer KaFE will be working with The Pyjama Foundation to support carers in assisting their children with their learning, an area many of them may have never felt comfortable delving into.
It’s an area The Pyjama Foundation have been providing support in for more than 15 years, matching trained learning mentors with children in the system to provide educational support.
The Pyjama Foundation Program Manager Kevin Gallard said throughout his time training Pyjama Angel community volunteers he has met many wonderful carers who he describes as the “angels”.
“Our Love of Learning program allows us to support these carers by providing them with a special Pyjama Angel for their child, often giving them an hour of respite each week,” he said.
“This training takes this support one step further, empowering our carers with the tools to directly support their children with their education.
“Our program offers tried and tested learning methodologies which are research based and match the current curriculum.
“We demonstrate to foster parents how to support their children with literacy and numeracy in a fun and engaging manner.”
Launched in 2017, Carer KaFE provides learning and development opportunities for Kinship and Foster carers throughout Victoria.
Program Manager Penny Daly said this type of education was something carers were calling out for.
“Our evaluations and feedback from kinship and foster carers across the State told us that helping children and young people with their homework is something carers need support with,” she said.
“After seeing Kevin present at the Queensland National Foster Care Conference, we knew that we had found the perfect answer to the carers requests.
“Carers leave these sessions with a bag of wonderful resources that turn homework help into fun games.”
Kinship and Foster carers said the support received in this session was invaluable, providing strategies and resources to use for all ages.
“I felt stuck in helping my child educationally, now I have strategies to help and resources to use,” one said.
“I learnt new techniques to help my 6-year-old who at present hates school as she has issues with being told what to do. She won’t even know I am helping now,” said another.
For more information on Carer KaFE and its work in Victoria, www.carerkafe.org.au/.
“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.
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.
Christmas is all about spending time with our family and friends, enjoying the festivities and the food and exchanging gifts. For most of us, Christmas brings us a sense of warmth, love and happiness.
Sadly, for many disadvantaged Australian children who cannot live with their own families, Christmas isn’t a joyous time at all. Many have no happy memories of Christmas – let alone received a present.
This year, you can make a real difference and help brighten the lives of Australian kids living in foster care.
With a small donation, you can give a child in care the best present ever – their very own Pyjama Angel to support them and help make their future a positive and happy one.
At The Pyjama Foundation, our mission is to make children’s dreams a reality; whether they want to be a teacher, engineer or doctor, through helping these kids with reading and writing – our mission is to help little people with big dreams.
With your help and generosity, we can brighten the lives of more children in care this Christmas and into the future.
Founder and Executive Director
The Pyjama Foundation