by MICHAEL OTTO
AUCKLAND — Christmas will have been a little brighter for children who have a parent in prison, thanks to the efforts of children from a Catholic school.
Years 3 and 4 pupils at St Mary MacKillop School in Mangere, Auckland, made “bags of providence” filled with toys and, on December 11, gave them to Lois Naera, a social worker from Pillars, an organisation that supports children and families of prisoners.
Mrs Naera told the pupils that Christmas is often not happy for families when Mum or Dad is in prison. Many of these families can’t afford to have presents or put on a Christmas dinner.
“These beautiful bags of providence are going to put a smile on faces,” she told the pupils.
Mrs Naera also told the children about mentoring schemes that Pillars runs for children of prisoners.
She spoke of the confusion and anger that such children experience when a parent is absent in jail. Children often blame themselves for this, wondering if they had behaved better then their parent would still be with them, she said.
Teacher Pepe Pereira said the students from the decile 1 school were inspired by a letter St Mary MacKillop wrote to Fr Julian Tenison Woods, the co-founder of the Josephites, that told of “providence bags”. The Mangere children researched the concept on the Internet and “planned, created and organised items for their own bags to give children in need — within our own community”, Ms Pereira said.
The students made the bags as part of their social justice learning unit.
Their theme has been “Awhi Mai, Awhi Atu”, which means “Support towards us, support from us”.