IDOTG 2022:When superheroes wear pyjamas
When superheroes wear pyjamas
You’re never too old, too wacky, too wild, to pick up a book and read to a child. – Dr Seuss
Superheroes don’t always wear shiny masks and fancy capes. Sometimes they wear pyjamas and slippers and provide the simple act of reading a book. FCM Meetings and Events are thrilled to be supporting one of the Flight Centre Foundations purpose partners, the Pyjama Foundation, who are changing the world, one child at a time.
The heroics of the Pyjama Angels – the volunteers behind this amazing organisation – lie in fighting injustice through the simple act of reading books to children in foster care, playing educational games and helping with homework. The impact of these small acts of kindness has been phenomenal.
A journey of transformation
The harsh reality is that children in care have the lowest education outcomes nationally. The numbers are frightening: 92% of children in care have below average reading skills by the time they are 7 years of age. It is a struggle for them to catch up, and as a result, 75% of care children don’t complete year 12. Even worse: 35% of children end up in the juvenile justice system.
Founder of the Pyjama Foundation Bronwyn Sheenan decided it was time to change those statistics. Her ambition took root when she met an incredible foster parent with over 100 kids under her care. “I visited her home and my heart was broken into tiny pieces when I met an 18-month-old baby boy who just entered care, arrived with no possession, and had hand marks on his tiny body,” she says.
Bronwyn wanted to make a difference and empower the children in foster care with learning, life skills and confidence to change the direction of their life paths. “There are currently 48,000 kids living in foster care in Australia. Every one of these children deserves to love learning, be equal with their peers and to have a long and happy life,” she says.
The concept Bronwyn came up with is simple but powerful. Through the Love of Learning Program, the Pyjama Foundation is helping disadvantaged youth living in foster care and residential care improve their learning skills. The ‘Pyjama Angel’ volunteers are trained and matched with a child in care and spend time with them once a week focusing on learning-based activities.
Why Pyjamas? “I called the organisation The Pyjama Foundation because we traditionally read to our own children at night in our pyjamas. Everyone is equal when they wear their PJ’s. And everyone loves wearing your PJs in public,” she laughs.
The results to date?
- 1416 children are supported every week
- 714 Pyjama Angels trained in the last year
- 2 million books have read to children
- 103,000 hours of support are provided per year
- $3.7 million is the estimated value of volunteer hours in private tutoring
How do the children experience their Pyjama Angels?
Hearing children’s views on the programme was essential for Bronwyn. She created a safe space for children to engage, where their thoughts are valued and opinions matter. 90% of children said they felt their Pyjama Angel encouraged them to try their best and 88% of children felt that their Pyjama Angel helped them feel more confident.
The feedback and personal notes from the children on the programme are nothing short of heart-warming:
“When I feel like quitting, my Pyjama Angel helps me find ways to solve the problem.”
“I personally think that my Angel has helped me through my most difficult phases of high school and only wants the best for me. I owe all my academic success to her, and she’s greatly impacted my life.”
My Angel is the best friend I’ve had. She tries her best to help me all the time. I was afraid of heights, but she helped me by taking me on a Ferris Wheel.”
“Monday is a good day at my home because the Pyjama Angel walks into my home and brings joy, happiness, games and stories.
The future starts here
The journey has been incredibly rewarding for everyone involved. “I love seeing how some of our long-term Pyjama Angels look at the children with the most amount of love in their eyes. There are so many proud moments: seeing our children succeed, finish school, get a part time job when they are 15, and eventually graduate from university,” says Bronwyn.
However, for Bronwyn to be able to reach her dream of helping each child in foster care, she needs a helping hand. Currently, the cost for the screening, training and placement of volunteers is just over $1500 for each volunteer. Over 80% of costs are driven by fundraising.
“That is why we are so thrilled to have a partnership with FCM Meetings and Events and the Flight Centre Foundation ,” she says, adding that this will allow the organisation to do what they do the best: attract, screen, and train beautiful Pyjama Angels from the community and place them with a vulnerable child for them to visit every week and empower them with education. “That is when we get to see the magic happen. We get to see the relationships develop and we see the children, love learning, wanting to read and being more engaged in the classroom.”
The organisation is also in desperate need of more volunteers, especially across Queensland. “For the first time in 18 years, we need to go on a recruitment campaign. We think everyone is a bit shell shocked coming out of COVID, so our most important need now is more volunteers,” says Bronwyn.
If you want to become a Pyjama Angel, click here.