At no time has the phrase “it takes a village to raise a child” been more relevant than in this COVID-19 lockdown space we find ourselves in. Recent months have shown us just how much we rely our on extended family, our school community and those outside our home who transfer the knowledge and skills onto our young people to help them become the best possible version of themselves.
But what if there is no-one in your village, no support network you can turn to for a helping hand at any time, let alone a few months in lockdown. Unfortunately that is the case for many families who don’t have a wrap-around support network outside of school and the home.
This week marks National Families Week (15-21 May) and National Volunteers Week (May 18-24) and while events have been postponed due to COVID-19, CareSouth would like to take this opportunity to thank our wonderful community of families, carers and volunteers who help to make a difference in the lives of vulnerable children.
This pandemic highlights the importance of the theme of National Families Week – Stronger Families, Stronger Communities – and of Volunteer Week – Changing Communities. Changing Lives – and the role families, carers and volunteers play by working together to support each other and provide care for those in the broader community.
One such CareSouth program that encompasses both these themes is Champions, where vulnerable families are matched with volunteer carers and mentors who provide an additional layer of love and support through spending quality time with young people.
For one South Coast family the Champions program changed their lives. Belinda and her four children were doing it tough, with little support and very few networks outside the home, when she was referred to Champions.
“It’s just been that light at the end of the tunnel,” said Belinda. “We were heading towards dark places and weren’t sure where to go.”
After careful consideration, former Champions caseworker Mark Potts (who now works for CareSouth’s Permanency Support Program in Bateman’s Bay) linked one of Belinda’s boys, Cohen, with South Coast carers Jackie and Allan. It turned out to be a perfect match, not just for Cohen but for the whole family.
“I just wanted to give back to children, I haven’t had any of my own,” said Jackie. “So Alan and I attended a couple of (Champions) meetings and we thought this is for us.”
While the initial link was for Cohen to spend time with Jackie and Allan the pair ended up taking the whole family under their wing. “We fell in love with the whole family,” said Jackie. “I got quite close to Belinda as well.”
The program is designed to not only support children and young people, but give parents a helping hand, a break, or sometimes even a shoulder to cry on.
“We go to Aunty Jackie’s and Uncle Allan’s to give Mum a break,” said Briley.
“When Mum gets a bit upset sometimes Jackie and Allan come over and give that support to Mum,” agreed Jacob, who was the catalyst for bringing the whole family into Jackie and Allan’s fold. Jacob saw how much fun Cohen was having during time spent with Jackie and Allan.
“I was kinda jealous actually when Cohen was going, that’s why I asked if I could come,” said Jacob. “Probably one of the biggest opportunities in life is to have two really good caring, loving people just to have you for a weekend and care for you and love you.”
Cohen was happy to share his time with Alfalfa and Gangsta Granny, the nicknames he had given Jackie and Allan, which they are utterly delighted by.
And Belinda has seen a huge change in the family dynamic since Jackie and Allan came into their lives.
“The kids are more connected, they get on better, they’re just having fun, they’re just living life,” said Belinda. “They’re happy being together. (Jackie and Allan) mean the world. They absolutely changed all of our lives in such a positive way.”
The feeling is mutual, with Jackie pointing out that Belinda and her children have added so much value to her and Allan’s life also.
“Allan and I have learned a lot from this as well. It’s probably made our bond stronger,” said Jackie.
When the boys are asked how they feel about Jackie and Alan playing such an important role is their lives Jacob says he is thankful.
“It’s precious,” says Cohen. “It’s rare in the world to have such good carers and a good, loving Mum and a beautiful sister and my two brothers. I’m really lucky to have such a good Aunty and Uncle like Alfalfa and Gangsta Granny.”
If you are interested in finding out more about CareSouth’s program, including Champions and Foster Care, please contact our team for a chat on 1300 554 260 or visit our website at caresouth.org.au