Combatting the dismal reality of child poverty

When Pamela* found out her daughter had gone to prison last November, she didn’t know where to turn.

Her daughter’s three children had been left without parents to look after them, and the whānau were struggling with the emotional load.

Pamela took in her three grandchildren, but on top of the heartbreak was struggling with the added pressure, and was concerned the kids were having a hard time with the changes.

“My heart was breaking. Their hearts were breaking,” explains the 56-year-old.

She wanted to be able to provide them with all the extras, sports games and a good Christmas, but her money and time was already stretched thin.

It wasn’t until she approached the charity Pillars, and was immediately offered support, that Pamela, as well as her daughter and grandchildren, started to feel less alone.

“I said ‘I don’t know if you can help… How do you mend a broken heart?’ Because that’s really what I wanted,” Pamela says.

She didn’t realise at the time that the support she and her whānau would receive from Pillars would be so impactful.

Knowing there was a support system there for her to lean on was crucial during that time.

With one of the children’s birthdays just a few days after Pamela’s daughter went to prison, and Christmas a month later, gifts and food parcels given by Pillars helped to brighten a difficult time.

The charity also gave advice to the family on how to navigate the prison system so they could arrange visits.

“They gave guidance, they gave reassurance, they spoilt the children.

And the children really appreciated it, because by Christmas time, both parents were in jail.”

While the children’s father is now out of jail, their mother was sentenced to just over three years – a long time to adjust to life without mum.

While Pamela is able to attend to and provide for all the kids’ daily needs, she isn’t left with much time for just hanging out.

That’s where Pillars’ mentoring service comes in. Each child is matched with a mentor who shares one-on-one time with them; cooking, rock climbing and playing sport.

“It gives me a little bit of time out, and something for them to look forward to,” says Pamela. Continue reading

  • Fiona Ralph is a guest writer at The Spinoff.
  • Those who continue to read will discover material about ‘breaking the cycle’ and ‘creating a meaningful future’. This content was made in paid conjunction with another charity, Share My Super.
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