ST VINCENT DE PAUL POSITIVE SOCIALISATION PROGRAMMES FOR CHILDREN
New Zealand is currently in the grips of a housing crisis. The Society of St Vincent de Paul recognizes that families suffer as a direct consequence. Often what is not highlighted is the mental health of the children as the parents focus is on survival and acquiring the basic needs of the family.
Children often suffer social and psychological harm when they experience adult family stress situtations. Often children in these situations have experienced or witness abuse and violence
As the age bracket from 0-3 years is when the brain hard wires itself, it is crucial that these children have adequate positive experiences. The age bracket between 3 and 15 is also very crucial in the building of resiliency and sound mental health into adulthood
In response to this issue the Society of St. Vincent de Paul have a ‘Positive Socialization Program” geared at children and adolescents. The purpose of this programme is to provide weekly positive playing, activity and socialisation opportunities for vulnerable children in their emergency housing, prison visit family spaces and caravan parks etc
Many of these projects are grounded in community based, and positive role modelling frameworks. They involve students and young adults from the local area, as well as the support of local Vincentians.
The youth team of the Society of St Vincent train up Yr12 and Yr13 Vinnies volunteers to help facilitate this programme. At anyone time there are 7 mentors onsite to assist with games and play. This programme runs for 2.5 hours after school and parents are also encouraged to join in.
The staff have given great feedback about the participants. Kids become more sociable, grow in confidence and present as less withdrawn and depressed. There is a notable change also in the parents. They enjoy the break when the children attend and they also enjoy the interaction and social aspect of this event. Secondly, there is a social aspect where kids who are once withdrawn. low self-esteem, loss of confidence, often given an opportunity to reconcile and to be become more resilient.
Homework centres are another important part of the services provided for today the children in emergency housing in the North Shore and also a school in a lower decile in the West Auckland region. The Vinnies youth volunteers work together with staff to help coordinate these sessions
In the West Auckland area, the senior students of a local secondary school roster on to volunteer at the homework centre. They go along in a group of six to assist children with their homework.
The value of this program is that many of the children who attend this program do not have access to adults after school. Often most of the children come from poorer families that struggle financially and are often less resourced to support their children adequately as they are occupied trying to house their families and put food on the table.
Having access to young adults who give their full attention to these children for an hour and a half is a real gift. Friendships and trust is fostered. The young children are affirmed and given time to speak and play. A meal of pizza is also factored in so that the children are not hungry
Psychologically the gift of such a program helps rewire and provide positive socialization opportunities for these children to build confidence and resilience.
FAMILY FUN AND DAYS PICNICS FOR ORANGA TAMARIKI CHILDREN AND THEIR CAREGIVERS
Each year, a number of colleges host a picnic for children from across Auckland. The purpose of these events are to provide moments of positive socialisation, of happiness and simple acts of love. Many of these children come from foster homes. Mindful of the vulnerabilities that come to the forefront in such situations, the students who host seek to create spaces of belonging and community. The students who are involved often cater for up to 60 children, and provide manaakitanga (hospitality) to caregivers and guardians who attend. The picnic consists of outdoor activities, painting, sports, and singing.
FAMILY FUN DAYS, CHRISTMAS FAMILY DAY AND FAMILY SUPPORT AT PRISON
During the Christmas season, Vinnies Youth recognise that not all families have the privilege of gathering when they wish to. This is often felt the most hardest for those who have a loved one that is incarcerated in prison. Within the Christmas season, Vinnies Youth from across Auckland band together to facilitate a card making session at the Kohuora Serco Men’s Prison in Wiri. This session is held in the visitors waiting area for all the families who are preparing for their visit. It is an opportunity to connect with different people from all walks of life, and create a space where children feel safe and happy.
FAMILY FUN DAYS, CHRISTMAS FAMILY DAY AND FAMILY SUPPORT AT EMERGENCY HOUSING FACILITIES
St Vinnies continues to host family Christmas days for family residents residing at caravan parks and shelters. Volunteers coordinate food, foodparcels, Christmas gifts, Santa, bouncy castles, activities and more to create a real festive event enjoyed by all. Over 50 families attend at each time.