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Thirty Auckland children of prisoners to get new mentors

Thirty Auckland children of prisoners to get new mentors

Thirty Auckland children with a parent in prison will get support from a mentor following a successful charity auction in the city centre last night.

Pillars is a charity that works with the families of prisoners, proving a wrap-around social service and offering mentors for children.

Chief executive Verna McFelin says children of prisoners are the invisible victims of crime. They often get ostracised from the community and develop physical, mental and behavioural issues.

Without intervention, social isolation often leads to truancy and after dropping out of school, they can enter a life of crime themselves. Children with a parent in prison are more than nine times more likely than other Kiwi kids to end up in prison as adults.

Pillars trains volunteer mentors to step in and provide support and guidance to break the cycle for these children aged 5-18.

Auckland mentors organise an annual charity auction to support the cause and this year raised their highest sum yet, at more than $28,000. Donated auction items included a signed New Zealand Kiwis rugby league jersey as well as a signed Black Caps cricket bat.

“The money will go towards Auckland children so 30 new children will be able to be mentored through what was raised,” says McFelin.

“We have waiting lists all the time. New Zealand is building prisons at a higher rate per capita than anywhere in the world right now and more prisons means more children separated from a parent.

“Just because a parent has gone to prison doesn’t necessarily mean they are a bad parent,” she adds.

Mentors volunteer their time, but have to be screened and trained, which requires investment.

Pt Chevalier man Mark Taylor started mentoring a now 14-year-old boy six years ago and says it has had a “profound impact” on his life.

“You go into it thinking charity is about giving, but you get way more back than you could ever put in. It’s about understanding your community and having appreciation for what you’ve got after seeing what other people experience in their lives,” he says.

The 40-year-old shares a love of sport with the child he mentors and says it is all about role-modelling behaviour.

“It’s just doing normal things like saying thank-you, putting rubbish in a bin and wearing a seatbelt,” he says.

There are more than 20,000 children in New Zealand who have a parent in prison.

Pillars is always looking for more mentors. If you are interested in getting involved please call 0508745527 or find out more and donate online at http://www.pillars.org.nz/.

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