These are the inspiring words of 19-year-old Kiarna… a young woman who grew up in foster care who has faced more adversity than anyone ever should in their early years… who now has the dream to help change the life direction of other children, just like her.
Kiarna was only five years old when she went into foster care. At five years old, life was already so unstable, confusing, and chaotic… but it was all she knew. Her biological mother had struggled with bipolar disorder, and could not give Kiarna the attention and care she desperately craved.
If her childhood wasn’t already challenging enough, it took a heartbreaking turn when her mother died from a drug overdose when Kiarna was just 11, and her father left the picture after the funeral. She has not seen or heard from him since. For an eleven-year-old, life felt lonely and hopeless, and sadly, this was all that she knew.
Living in foster care felt constantly busy with other children in the home, mixed in with appointments and child safety visits. Growing up, Kiarna felt safe, but she also often felt lonely and lost. She felt different from other kids and like she didn’t fit in.
She often questioned her identity and place in this world which no child should ever have to worry about, but this was Kiarna’s reality.
All of these unfortunate events lead to mental health issues for Kiarna which made her teenage years more turbulent.
When Kiarna turned 13, an “Angel” was sent from The Pyjama Foundation. Her name was Dianne, and she reassured Kiarna that she wasn’t alone and that she was there to help guide her, mentor her and be there as a friend.
Dianne made a huge impact on Kiarna’s life. There were many life-defining moments but with her help, Kiarna managed to build her resilience and fight through everything that was thrown her way.
Dianne often read books with Kiarna, helped with homework and other schoolwork she struggled with. Mostly, she was a shoulder to lean and cry on, and an ear to listen to any of Kiarna’s worries or concerns. Life was better, and much more manageable with Dianne by her side.
As Kiarna got older, she became inspired by the work of The Pyjama Foundation and was in awe of volunteers, just like Dianne who wanted to help children in need and make a world of difference.
Now she wants to do the same for another child who may be going through what she went through.
Students from Townsville Grammar School have held a Wacky Tacky fundraiser in support of The Pyjama Foundation. Together they raised more than $600 to support children in out-of-home care.
Students and staff dressed up in their wackiest outfits for the last Friday of Week 8. Everyone was encouraged to wear bright clothes and bring even brighter smiles. The school community certainly delivered, with glitter and neon outfits to boot.
Townsville Grammar School captain of the junior school’s community service team Chloe Langtree organised the event. With the help of her fellow students, Chloe passionately got her school community board as a way to give back to her community.
“I chose to support the Pyjama Foundation, because I found what they did really helped the community.
The volunteers don’t get paid, and yet they turn up to help children in need,” she said.
“A Foundation like this one definitely deserves a cheer, and they have my full support. Dedicating fundraiser to them was a way of showing it.”
Townsville Grammar assistant head of junior school Chris Gray said it is important to foster sense of community as part of the culture of the school.
He also acknowledged the need for students and staff to have fun and bring “laughter and smiles” to the school community.
“The last couple of years have been particularly more about FUNraising as we had the flood last year and now COVID-19,” he said.
“Days like these also go a long way to bind us together as a School community and to build on the sense of pride we have for each other and our School.”
If you’d like to find out more about holding a fundraising event to support The Pyjama Foundation, please click here.
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.
We’ve found some super fun ways to use healthy food in creative ways for your next weekly visit. These easy and fun healthy food activities are a great way to use food with your child. Not to worry, these ideas use things you most likely already have lying around.
We believe these fun food ideas are a great way to spend quality time together where the little ones can prepare healthy food in a fun and creative way.
This fun activity is great for little ones that love trains.
Does you little one have a love for animals? Try these fun food activities. Watch the strawberries and bananas transform into a lizard and an apple into an owl.
For those who want more of a challenge these food activities are for you. Let the kiddies creative flare shine with over 40 creations, from strawberry roses to fruit peacock.
As we always say sharing is caring. Creating this healthy veggie tray with your little one is a great way to make snacks the rest of the home can also enjoy.
Take ants on a log to the next level with these adorable and healthy snacks.
Get creative with these fun food face plates. Your little ones could even create a food face self portrait.
This is a great food activity for kiddies who love to build things. With a variety of food options to use the sky is the limit.
There are so many different ways to create with food. These activities include simple shapes and patterns and can be created with healthy fruits and veggies!
If you give these a go with your little people, please let us know! We love hearing all about our wonderful Pyjama Angels’ activities on their visits. For more activity ideas, check out our blog posts for craft and science activities for all ages!
Nurturing your special little ones’ creative spirit is especially important. We’ve found some super fun craft ideas that you can do on your next weekly visit to spark imagination and creative play. Don’t worry, we’ve made sure these ideas use things you probably have lying around at home. This means no special tools are required.
We feel these super fun craft sessions are a great way to spend quality time together where the little ones can explore their creative passions.
This arts and craft activity means you and your little one might have to explore the great outdoors for a while. The kiddies can let their imagination run wild and create ANY type of rock pet. Create anything from lions to lady bugs to even fish!
Microwave puffy paint is a fantastic way to combine art and science! Watch the artwork puff up and grow in a matter of seconds.
Bring a fire breathing dragon to life with this adorable little craft! This simple project only needs some old toilet paper role, tissue paper, poms poms, and most importantly, googly eyes.
There’s something so magical about making bubbles. This is the perfect outdoor arts and craft activity that the kids will love when you come over for your visit.
This one is sure to be a hit with the younger creative geniuses. Panting with the salt is like magic – it creates intriguing and interesting textures and patterns.
These cute little insect sewing projects are a great way to begin teaching children how to sew. The best part of this project is that the craft is adaptable for kids of all ages so everyone can get involved in this one.
Get really crafty with this cool and quirky project! The creative little ones can try and make an origami version of all their favourite people, book characters or super heroes.
Here at The Pyjama Foundation, we absolutely love our books and love reading them even more. This clever and cute little DIY craft activity means you can always pick up exactly where you left off and never lose your place.
This rocket uses the power of compressed to launch high into the sky – future engineers, take note: this is called pneumatics. After you’ve launched your rocket, just blow into the tubes to inflate the bottle once again and have another turn. So much fun!
For not-for-profits, the hours given by each dedicated volunteer are quite often a large part of their success.
It’s because of the hard work of selfless people who make a commitment to change a life which allow children in foster care to believe in themselves and their dreams.
This National Volunteer Week, there are so many reasons to say ‘thanks’ and honour those who give their precious time to others.
We absolutely rely on our Pyjama Angels. After we recruit, screen and train these generous volunteers, they are matched with a child in foster care. They then commit to visiting the child once a week to inspire a love of learning.
Our founder and CEO Bronwyn Sheehan said it was these incredible people who allowed her to build The Pyjama Foundation from the ground up. These people believed in her mission from the start and continue to give their time – some 14 years later.
“After all these years, I have had the pleasure of working with some of the most amazing human beings,” she said.
“I have shared their tears, as they cried for those little people they cared for so deeply.
“And I have shared their happiness as they beamed with pride sharing their successes.”
Bronwyn said her hope is to continue inspiring the community to join The Pyjama Foundation family.
“As we have grown, so have our waitlists,” she said.
“We currently have hundreds of children across the country waiting for a Pyjama Angel to come into their life.”
Becoming a Pyjama Angel offers just as much for the volunteer as it does for the child, with many commenting on the fun and fulfillment it brings to their lives.
For more information on how to volunteer, please head to our volunteer page at www.thepyjamafoundation.com/volunteer.
Eight years ago, foster carer Penny Hallett’s desire for equal opportunities for all children saw her dedicate her life to providing care.
Inspired by her experience as a volunteer for The Pyjama Foundation, Penny and her husband began to explore the idea of becoming foster carers.
In 2008, Penny’s journey began when she was matched with a young boy in care through the Foundation’s Love of Learning Program. Together they played educational games, read stories, built confidence and set the child up to be much more than what life had given him.
Penny went on to mentor another young girl, where she met a foster carer who had cared for children for over 40 years and inspired Penny to explore becoming a carer herself.
In 2011, Penny and her family embarked on the process and became full time foster carers.
This Foster and Kinship Carer Week we celebrate the wonderful people in our community just like Penny. People who are opening up their hearts and homes for children in out of home care.
“As a volunteer with The Pyjama Foundation, you are able to form a positive relationship and encourage a love of learning,” she said.
“We would read books together, sometimes we would go outside and enact the stories that sparked their imagination, or just jump on the trampoline and laugh a lot.
“The children I mentored and have in my home have the most heart wrenching stories, but you know what, they just get on with it.
“Apart from all the ‘mum things’, I see my role as a Foster Carer as being my kids advocate until they can do that for themselves.
“I can’t imagine my life not being involved with kids in care, and I am grateful for the lifelong friendships I have made with other carers and all the wonderful staff at The Pyjama Foundation.”
Child Safety Minister Di Farmer congratulated Penny on her support for children in care, both as a Pyjama Angel and now as a foster carer.
“The men and women who volunteer to be foster carers are some of the kindest and most caring I’ve met,” she said.
“Penny has given some children who need some love and support her time, care and attention both as a Pyjama Angel, then as a foster carer.
“Penny’s opened her heart, and then her home. You really can’t underestimate just how life changing that kind of support can be to the children who are looked after by our carers.”
The number of children in the out of home care system continues to rise in Australia. There is now more than 9,000 children currently in foster and kinship care in Queensland.
Foster and Kinship Carer Week runs from 21-28 April and aims to celebrate and thank people like Penny for their continued work. These special people are ensuring the most vulnerable children have a loving place to call home.
Back to school after the holiday break can be a terrifying time for many children, particularly those in the foster care system.
But thanks to dedicated Townsville Pyjama Angel volunteer Robyn Narratone one child’s experience has been far more positive.
Lexi* was just two-years-old when Robyn was first matched as her Pyjama Angel.
Fast forward three years and countless hours of reading together and playing educational games, Lexi has soaring confidence and Foster Carer Sarah* said she couldn’t be more grateful for the support Robyn has provided.
“When our two-year-old began to develop an interest in language and books, we referred her to the Pyjama Angel Program and her Pyjama Angel Robyn has been such a great support to her ever since,” she said.
“I think for Lexi a key benefit was providing that individual, focused attention. As the middle child and having a brother with additional support needs, it was difficult for Lexi to get the learning support which was needed in order to catch up with her age group and develop foundational skills.”
Sarah said one of her very favourite moments was coming home from work and hearing little Lexi reading ‘Where is the Green Sheep’ by herself for the very first time.
“Weekly sessions have provided effective early intervention to support the development of a range of skills for school readiness, including following instructions, focusing on tasks, being able to talk and listen, identifying numbers and letters, basic manners, writing her name and taking turns,” she said.
“She has continued to thrive with Robyn’s support and we can see that she is set up for success with schooling.”
The Pyjama Foundation North QLD regional coordinator Mel Vaughan said quality interaction with adults in the early years is vital for educational success.
“We have a number of Pyjama Angels in our program, who are matched with toddlers or children about to start school,” she said.
“These volunteers provide positive learning experiences in a safe environment and build a love of reading and learning that will hopefully transfer to formal schooling experiences.
“Robyn sang simple nursery rhymes to Lexi, played counting games, read books, improved fine motor skills through finger painting and play-dough and completed puzzles.