Taking the time to give foster children hope

Foster Hope Otago co-ordinator Juanita Willems, in her Mosgiel home, wraps some Christmas presents destined for foster children. Photo: Linda Robertson
Foster Hope Otago co-ordinator Juanita Willems, in her Mosgiel home, wraps some Christmas presents destined for foster children. Photo: Linda Robertson
At the most magical time of the year, Foster Hope Otago is trying to spread a little Christmas cheer with its backpacks for foster children.

Foster Hope Otago co-ordinator Juanita Willems said the charity wanted to make sure children going into foster care knew someone ''out there cares about them''.

It typically gave foster children a backpack filled with necessities and helpful items such as pyjamas, toothcare items and clean socks and underwear.

At Christmas, the project worked extra hard to be ''Santa Claus'' for the children.

Every backpack that went to foster children would also have an appropriate present donated by the public.

''At this time of year, we have a heap of kids going into care ... and they need to have something from Santa.''

The festive season was a peak time for child protection agencies which daily were faced with the reality and severity of child abuse, neglect and crisis in local communities, Mrs Willems said.

The children were often amazed and overwhelmed by the backpack gifts.

The project was there to ''shed a little bit of hope'' on each child's first 48 hours in care.

''We had a recent situation with an older girl and she could not believe someone had taken the time to put something together like that for her ... I'll continue to do it as long as we're getting that kind of response.''

Foster Hope Otago covered Oamaru through to Invercargill and Central Otago.

Last year, it sent out about 600 backpacks to foster children.

This year, it seemed set to send out about 800 packs.

''Essentially, there are 800 people we'd like to help but we'll do what we can.''

Support from the public was necessary to making the Christmas dreams come true.

People were asked to donate items or appropriate gifts at one of the collection points in Dunedin and Mosgiel.

Members of Foster Hope Otago would then spend time meticulously sorting and wrapping each one to be distributed.

This year, teenagers appeared to be the ones ''missing out'' the most, Mrs Willems said.

The ages of children ranged from newborn to 18 years old.

Gifts for children could be dropped off at Blackbird Giftstore, Kaikorai Valley Subway, Mitre 10 Mosgiel, Otago Polytechnic Students' Association Hub, Whitcoulls Dunedin, Southern Wide Real Estate and Chipmunks Playland and Cafe.

samuel.white@odt.co.nz

 

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