The timing couldn’t have been better.
A phone call from the Prime Minister’s office asking if Pillars, a charity for children of prisoners, would accept a Royal wedding gift of 5k and if the PM’s office could advise Prince Harry and Meghan Markle that their wedding gift had been accepted—-was testimony to years of hard work and dedication that had gone into building the charity.
The royal couple had asked that in lieu of gifts, donations be made to chosen charity.
The first phone call that Verna McFelin, Pillars founder and chief executive made, on receiving the good news was to Maxine Gay, Pillars’ acting northern regional manager.
Maxine says: “It’s so wonderful that Verna founded Pillars 30 years ago and that Megan and Harry were married on the 30th anniversary of Pillars.
She says it is a big acknowledgement of the unique work that Pillars does to prevent inter-generational crime.
“We start with an ambulance on the top instead of the bottom of the cliff.”
This year Pillars – which provides positive mentors for vulnerable children of prisoners – was one of the five finalists for the New Zealand Community Organisation of the Year.
“Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is well aware of the work we do as is (Finance Minister) Grant Robertson, whose father was also incarcerated. He is aware of how traumatic it can be for the family.
“They are aware that there is a huge cohort of children of prisoners and how important it is to lift them from poverty and help raise their profile,” says the former trade unionist.
“We’ve had 800 children in our programme and our one-on-one mentors sign up for a minimum of 12 months involvement because our children have so many people in and out of their lives.”
She says that a child of an incarcerated person is nine-and-a-half times more likely to commit a crime.
“There are around 25,000 children who are affected because they have parents in prison. We work with the whanau and the children to help bring stability into the family. This award catapults those children from obscurity and allows Pillars to talk about it,” she says.
The Royal wedding gift will go towards an educational scholarship to help a couple of children a year.