You know the feeling you get when you put on your slippers on a cold winter’s day? Those feelings of warmth and comfort, support and snugness. That’s how CareSouth’s Aunties & Uncles program volunteers make kids feel.
So, it was only fitting on National Aunties & Uncles Day, July 26, that we celebrated the program and its volunteers. Named the Warm Hearts, Warm Feet campaign, CareSouth asked people from all walks of life to pop on a pair of slippers for the day and wear them to work to signify the invaluable impact Aunties & Uncles volunteers have as they help vulnerable kids to feel safe, snug and supported – just like a pair of cosy slippers.
And what a great success it was, with businesses and preschools from across the Illawarra, Shoalhaven and Eurobodalla regions signing up to support the campaign.
Supporting kids in the community
Aunties & Uncles, CareSouth’s longest-running program, connects kids with carefully matched volunteers who provide guidance and mentoring through simple acts of kindness and small moments of support. This might be taking the kids to the beach, sporting matches, fishing or cooking a meal with them.
“It allows young people to share new experiences, or just everyday things, that can help them navigate challenges, build resilience and develop important social and emotional skills,” says CareSouth carer engagement and support team leader Rebecca Henderson.
Rebecca was one of hundreds of staff members across all seven CareSouth offices who donned their slippers to raise awareness of our amazing volunteers and acknowledge the role they play in improving the lives of children and families.
The success is in its simplicity
The day was also an opportunity for program volunteers and staff to share heart-warming stories with the broader community about the positive impact the program has had on them and the children they support.
Shoalhaven Aunties & Uncles volunteer John Lamont, a long-time supporter of the program and manager of NowChem, asked staff from across his organisation to wear slippers to work to raise awareness of CareSouth’s program. He also shared his journey as a volunteer with Shoalhaven radio station 2ST, telling host Graham Day one of the highlights of being an Aunties & Uncles volunteer was getting to experience things through the eyes of the twin girls his family was matched with.
“We took them to Sydney and they were fascinated by the escalators; they had never seen them before in Nowra,” recalled John. “It’s the little moments that can bring so much joy.”
Illawarra Aunties & Uncles volunteer Richard Barrett hosted a National Aunties & Uncles Day information stand at Stockland Shellharbour – one of six CareSouth events across the Illawarra, Shoalhaven and Batemans Bay – and told those interested in becoming a volunteer to “just go for it”.
“It has changed my life for the better, in so many ways,” said Richard. “I work shift work, and life can get pretty busy, but I always make time for the young boy I support. Last week we went horse riding, and it reminded me of the days I used to go when I was a kid. It’s such a privilege to be able to help create those memories.”
Highlights from our supporters
It’s hard to name them all, but here are just a few.
The biggest highlight from National Aunties & Uncles Day was seeing the program’s volunteers and caseworkers wearing their slippers to work, to school, at shopping centres in the Illawarra and Shoalhaven, at the Kiama Farmer’s Market, and even to the Shoalhaven Business Chamber’s Awards Finalists’ and Sponsors Evening for the region’s upcoming business awards (CareSouth has been nominated for four awards).
Nowra MP Fiona Phillips was one of the many supporters who got behind the campaign, sharing a social media post of herself in a pair of CareSouth slippers, walking to the beat of The Proclaimers’ I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles).
CareSouth gave away 200 pairs of slippers and 50 information packs to community supporters, and more than 500 people entered CareSouth’s Winter Warmer Pack social media competition.
Thank you for your support
Aunties & Uncles doesn’t receive funding but has been running for nearly 30 years. Its success is in its simplicity, and we want to see it continue to grow so we can offer the service to more young people. That’s why we are so grateful to everyone who supported this campaign.
If you would like to learn more about becoming an Aunties & Uncles volunteer, please call 1300 554 260 or visit caresouth.org.au/our-services/auntiesuncles/.
Stay tuned for an even bigger celebration come National Aunties & Uncles Day next year!