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Fostering change: Behind Floriana’s desire to help children in care

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.

My gorgeous friend Melissa (pictured left)

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

    My ‘magic bag’ of resources!

  • 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.

F xx

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.

Meet Zoe: Creating a Brighter Future for Kids in Care

 

 

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.

 

You can support Zoe and help her reach her fundraising goal of $500 by donating here or you can sign up your workplace for Pyjama Day by heading towww.nationalpyjamaday.com 

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.