During Gippsland’s Biggest PJ Day on Friday, September 8, school students learned that not all kids have a stable home to go to every day. But something that foster kids have in common with them is a love of comfy pyjamas, and the region was full of colour as the students dressed in their comfy night clothes to learn how they can support their fellow youngsters receiving crisis care.

Sale-based charity A Better Life for Foster Kids (ABLFFK) supports children and carers in the out-of-home care system, and Gippsland’s Biggest PJ Day raises awareness for the cause.

Italian teacher at St Patrick’s Primary School in Stratford, Sophie Garner, won this t-shirt after the students decided she had the best pyjamas of all the teachers.

About 40 kindergartens, primary, and secondary schools across all six Gippsland shires donned their pyjamas for the day. Several businesses, media outlets, and individuals also got on board.

This reporter visited St Patrick’s Primary School and Bundalaguah Primary School to see ABLFFK and Ted the teddy bear speak to the students and encourage them to yell “Gippsland’s Biggest PJ Day” as loud as they can.

Linda Dervish, a volunteer with A Better Life For Foster Kids, thanked all the children in both schools for looking great in their PJs and getting involved.

Ms Dervish explained that one of the most important jobs for ABLFFK is to pack suitcases for children to bring with them to carers who take them in.

St Patrick’s Primary School student Lara, aged 9, has pyjamas at home with “little cats” on them, which are her personal favourite.
Photos: Stefan Bradley

“Sometimes the children don’t have anything other than the clothes they’re wearing,” she said.

With kids aged from under one-year-old to 16, what needs to go in the cases varies. Spoilables such as food generally don’t go in there in favour of toothbrushes, small teddy bears, books, nappies for the babies and Christmas presents.

This ensures that cases of different sizes can sit in storage for a period of time but are ready to go as needed. Both summer and winter pyjamas are included. Pyjamas are important for foster kids as they make them feel safe.

St Patrick’s Primary School in Stratford had their PJ event the day before on Thursday, September 7 – it was a very sunny day, perhaps a bit too warm for some of the pyjamas worn.

The students were given the opportunity to scream to decide who had the best pyjamas of the day. Kodie won best PJs for the students, while Italian teacher Sophie Garner heard the loudest yells for best pyjamas among the teaching staff.

Principal Joel Brayshaw said it was important for St Patrick’s students to understand that not all kids “are as lucky as they are”.

“We do need to go out and support others, and Gippsland’s Biggest PJ Day does make them aware of that,” he said.

St Patrick’s grade four student Lara remembered the ABLFFK team visiting last year as well. She understands now that there are some children who don’t always have somewhere to go home to every night.

Bundalaguah Primary School students learn why they are wearing PJs last Friday.

“Then they have to pack stuff for when they go to their new home. It’s kind of different to what we do,” Lara said.

Lara says she goes home to her family every day after school and thinks it would be difficult to go somewhere else.

The next day, ABLFFK visited a number of schools for Gippsland’s Biggest PJ Day, including Bundalaguah Primary School. Andrew Williamson, from the Organising Committee for Gippsland’s Biggest PJ Day, thanked the students and their parents for the donations.

From left: Rebecca Gibson, Linda Dervish, Macy, Alehandro and Andrew Williamson at Bundalaguah Primary School.

“That’s so generous. What you’re doing is providing some of your money to someone else who may need it a little bit more,” he said.

He hoped that the Bundy kids, and all Gippsland students, would tell their parents and their friends about the cause and why they’re wearing pyjamas because we all wish for a better life for foster kids.

Linda Dervish, volunteer with A Better Life For Foster Kids, presents a certificate of appreciation to Bundalaguah Primary School students Macy and Alehandro.

Each year, ABLFFK provides Crisis Cases to around 1600 children entering care, ensuring needs are taken care of with dignity and relieving the mental and financial burden of carers.

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 10 children in every 1000 in Victoria are on care and protection orders, a total of 14,947 children across Victoria.

Bundalaguah Primary School with Ted and A Better Life for Foster Kids team.

For more information or to donate, head to abetterlifeforfosterkids.org.au/gippslands-biggest-p-j-day/

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