The coronavirus pandemic didn’t stop Christmas cheer for 67 children with imprisoned parents after a $5,000 holiday fundraiser from the Order of St John. 

The Order has donated Christmas gifts to VACRO for many years, bringing joy to hundreds of children of our program participantsDue to COVID-19, the Order decided last Christmas to raise funds instead of purchasing gifts. 

“Every Christmas is hard for someone with a parent in prison, but this year is particularly tough for kids who haven’t been able to visit their parents in person and hug them,” said VACRO CEO Marius Smith. 

“These gifts are one important way parents in prison can let their children know they’re thinking of them. By giving a present, they are developing a positive identity as a parent and as an important influence in their child’s life.”

 Key points:
  • The Order of St John fundraised $5,000 for Christmas gifts for VACRO program participants' children
  • 67 children aged between 1 and 16 years have now received gifts
  • It's meant one dad could spend quality time with his son for the first time in years

VACRO distributed gifts through two programs that have indirect contact with participants’ children: the post-release reintegration program ReConnect, and the Parents and Family Program, which strengthens family relationships through family therapy and parental education. 

Thirteen children of ReConnect program participants received gifts from their parents, including a LEGO pack, soft toys, perfume, Bluetooth speakers, clothes, sporting equipment, hair accessories, games, and a basketball cap. One father and his teenage son used a gift voucher to buy a new Xbox game, which they played together for hours in the first quality time spent together in years. The parent called hicase manager to thank him and say that his son loved “hanging out with dad”. 

Fifty-one children of participants in the Parents and Family Program, and three other children residing with their mothers at Tarrengower Prison, received gift cards or age-appropriate creative play gift packs put together by our family counsellors. These packs included arts and craft items, soft toys, books and puzzles for mothers to use to interact with their children. Our team liaised with prison programming staff to make sure the gifts complemented existing program and met prison security requirements. 

“We really appreciate the generous support of the Order of St John in helping to make Christmas a bit brighter for these families,” Marius said. “Quality time with a parent, or a hand-selected present, reminds a kid they’re supported, not alone.” 

VACRO is an independent, non-denominational not-for-profit organisation which welcomes the generous and compassionate support of the Order’s community. We welcome donations to support our work. 

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