An open letter to our Pyjama Angels this National Volunteer Week. Written by The Pyjama Foundation’s National Volunteer Manager Tash Hodson.
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.
The two-week September school holidays are here! This is a good time for you and your Pyjama child to get crafty, creative and learn outdoors without homework hindering your visit.
The holidays is an awesome opportunity to extend your visits and perhaps have a change of scenery. This is a wonderful way to build your relationship with your Pyjama Child but please remember the restrictions and key policies which you would have learnt about in your Pyjama Angel training.
Here are some free events happening in our regions during the September school holidays. This may provide some inspiration for potential activities or a fun day out. You may even be able to assist your carer in taking the whole family out for a free and fun-filled day!
The State Library of Queensland is hosting a one-day event these school holidays, to celebrate art, science, learning, play and adventure. The day offers children with an interest in scientific mysteries and art, to participate in experiments and games. This would be a perfect opportunity for Pyjama children to explore their interests or even show off their science skills!
For: Any age
Where: The Edge, State Library of Queensland
When: 10:00am to 3:00pm | Saturday 6 October 2018
The Mackay Regional Botanic Gardens has designed a self-guided scavenger hunt, for those children interested in exploring nature. The Gardens provides an activity sheet to guide children around the gardens, encouraging them to find locate and explore the local flora and fauna. This scavenger hunt gives our Pyjama children the opportunity to explore nature!
Find the Botanic Gardens Scavenger Hunt Map here or collect from the Gardens Administration.
Mackay Regional Botanic Gardens are also providing 20 other free self-guided activities in the Gardens. There is an online passport that can be downloaded from here or collected from the Gardens Administration.
For: Any age
Where: Mackay Regional Botanic Gardens
When: 22-29 September
Has your Pyjama child expressed the interest in learning a new skill? The Pier is running 45-minute how-to knit sessions for children. These free lessons are designed to expand their creativity, concentration and coordination skills.
For: Any age
Where: The Pier
When: 10:00am – 1:30pm | 25 – 28th September, 2 – 5 October
The National Gallery of Victoria is currently running an interactive exhibit for children, to explore the sights and sounds of New York! The exhibit is a great opportunity for our Pyjama children to learn about New York, through interactive displays, multimedia projections and hands-on activities.
For: All Ages
Where: National Gallery of Victoria
When: 10:30am – 12:30pm | 2nd October
The Gladstone Regional Libraries is holding a range of educational activities at libraries across the region these September holidays. If your Pyjama child has a special interest in technology or robotics, the libraries are holding sessions for children to learn the basics of coding and robot play. They are also providing craft activities, including tie dying.
For: Children 10 and over (Tie Dye Fun & Coding), All ages (Craft & Robot Play)
Where: Gladstone City Library
When: 24th September – 4th October
As a part of their KRANK program, The Logan City Council are holding many school holiday events, including a cooking class. This free event will let you and your Pyjama child master a new skill in the kitchen, while preparing and cooking new foods together. The Logan City council are also offering other events, such as Zumba and hip-hop classes.
For: 5 – 11 years
Where: Kingston East Neighbourhood Centre
When: 10am – 11am | 4th October
The State Library of New South Wales has recently opened their new Learning Centre and are holding a range of activities for children. These activities focus on building and construction giving children the opportunity to help the library create a cardboard city. Children can build and create a pop-up house!
For: All Ages
Where: State Library of New South Wales
When: 10am – 3pm | 8 October – 12 October
Surfers Paradise is holding their annual Kids Week. This year the event is dinosaur themed and will showcase daily live shows from 1pm. This event also gives our Pyjama children the opportunity to meet rangers and their animatronic dinosaurs, as well as learn all there is to know about dinosaurs!
For: All Ages
Where: State Library of New South Wales
When: 29th September – 5th October
The City of Townsville is holding two different Lego activities during the school holidays. These activities will give our creative Pyjama children the opportunity to construct a building with Lego and turn it into a robot! Through technology, the children will be able to program their robot to do exactly what they tell it to do.
For: 7+ years
Where: CityLibraries Thuringowa Central
When: 2pm – 4:30pm | 25th September & 4th October
Ipswich Art Gallery is running a workshop for children to create shadow puppets. The workshop let’s children transform their puppet design into a moveable creation made of pipe cleaners, paper, ribbon and a range of craft materials.
For: 4+ years
Where: Ipswich Art Gallery
When: 10am – 5pm | 11nd September – 11th October
August marked Pyjama Angel Awards month, where throughout the month we showed our appreciation of all our Pyjama Angels who constantly go above and beyond for our Pyjama children.
Our Pyjama Angels are volunteers who are coached, recruited and paired with a child in foster care.
For an hour each week, they visit their Pyjama child and focus on educational-based activities, as an extra support system for foster children.
The aim of the program is not just about invaluable learning but also to show the child they are cherished and loved.
During August we shared posts on our various social media platforms including stories, photos and quotes from Pyjama Angels who have made a significant difference to the life of a child in care.
Pyjama Angels work from eleven regions including Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne as well as eight rural Queensland locations, and volunteers from each were nominated for Pyjama Angel of the Year Awards.
While only one Pyjama Angel from each region was named Pyjama Angel of the Year, we know that all our Pyjama Angels do incredible work and we appreciate the positive influence they are making on children’s lives.
We are constantly blown away by the enthusiasm, commitment and dedication our Pyjama Angels bring each and every week, and we are not the only ones who have noticed.
All our deserving Pyjama Angel Award winners were nominated for the awards, whether that was by their Pyjama child or the child’s carer.
Thank you Pyjama Angels for your contribution and ongoing support!
To see stories and photos from our amazing Pyjama Angels visit our Facebook and Instagram pages.
If you think you or someone you know would want to become a Pyjama Angel please don’t hesitate to visit us at www.thepyjamafoundation.com/volunteer/.
(Pictured L-R: NSW Coordinator, Megan Guenther, National Fundraising Manager, Deborah Scott-Ranson, NSW Pyjama Angel of the Year, Stella Angelo and Australia Post Representative and NSW State Manager, Colin Hindle)
We would thank you here or there,
We would thank you anywhere,
We would thank you in a wagon,
We would thank you on a dragon,
In the park, or at the zoo,
Cause that was awfully nice of you.
Thank you for spending a night with me,
Helping lots of kiddies in need.
A little over a month ago, we welcomed guests far and wide to join us for a night of fun and frivolity at The Pyjama Foundation’s Brisbane Cat in the Hat Cocktail Party as we raised much needed funds for kids in out of home care. Hosted at the State Library of Queensland, the party included live entertainment, endless photo booth opportunities and a crowd favourite candy bar!
Children living in foster care often bounce from different homes, to different schools, which can affect their opportunities to read and learn, causing them to fall behind their peers academically. The Cat in the Hat theme was a dedication to Dr Seuss, who wrote brilliant books that have inspired – and continue to inspire – children all around the world.
Instant win mystery box tickets and raffle tickets were available to purchase on the night with amazing prizes thanks to all of our incredible sponsors. Free trip to Phuket anyone?
By raising these funds, we are able to continue growing The Pyjama Foundations Love of Learning Program, and screen, train, recruit and match a volunteer ‘Pyjama Angel’ with a child in out of home care. Together, the child and Pyjama Angel read books aloud, focus on educational based activities, play games and so much more. Pyjama Angels become part of the family and are a constant positive support system when needed the most.
Former and present Pyjama kids joined us on the night, as well as many Pyjama Angel volunteers who continue to inspire us every day. The Executive Director of Child, Family and Disability Services Matthew Lupi was the entertaining MC for the evening, and welcomed the Honourable Shannon Fentiman, Minister for Communities, Women and Youth, and Child Safety and Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence to give a powerful address to kick off the evening.
The room was filled with love, laughs and great acts of generosity, to which we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.
Thank you for supporting The Pyjama Foundation’s Cat in the Hat Cocktail party, and we hope to see you all again next year with more festivities.
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