Comforting traumatised kids

DEDICATION: Mary Ann France and Kim Callard have harnessed the energies of prisoners and retirees to help them make comfort blankets and pikau bags for traumatised kids. Times photo Wayne Martin

Helping society’s forgotten women is something a committed pair of Howick and Botany residents have in the bag – the pikau bag.

Mary Ann France and Kim Callard formed Comfort Kidz, an organisation dedicated to helping traumatised children, and they have harnessed the energies of prisoners and retirees to help them do it.

Male prisoners at Northland’s Ngawha have been taught pikau bag making. The drawstring duffel bags, which can double as pillows, are packed with toiletries, towels, clothes, books and other items, and given to the Multi-Agency Centre, a Middlemore Hospital facility dealing with traumatised children, bringing together health, welfare and police – though no uniforms are permitted.

“We are trying hard to keep up with the demand, because far too many kids are at the centre every week, and that is a horrible reflection on our society,” Ms France said.

Women from the Wiri correctional facility are being taught quilting, the finished items also given to the centre – commonly known as MAC, as are the recycled woollen blankets Ms France beautifully cuts down and trims with satin to create comforters for the children. Ms Callard, a former fashion designer, says it’s been a privilege to see prisoners wanting to contribute something positive. Both women have been passing on their skills and their pikau and comfort blanket project has recently been backed by the Rotary Club of Highbrook, where Ms France is a member.

To speed up the production line, fellow Rotarian and Botany House of Travel director Katrina Cole allowed her premises to become a factory for the day. Quilters, including professional pattern-makers and textile designers, and women from the retirement villages, made around 200 pikau bags on Sunday. While fabrics have been donated, the pair need volunteers, and woollen blanket and cotton cord donors.

The relentless workers are also looking for someone to donate labels they can stitch on the Comfort Kidz blankets saying: “This is mine” – where a child can add their name.