During the past financial year, 775 Sunshine Coast children were assisted by family support service and charitable organisation SunnyKids.
Of these young people seeking help, 71 per cent were working through emotional issues, 67 per cent were in a domestic violence situation, 47 per cent were affected by medical issues and a startling 33 per cent were experiencing homelessness.
For SunnyKids CEO Chris Turner, assisting these children with financial and emotional support is vital.
And rather than simply responding to children in crisis, Mr Turner wants to boost prevention and early intervention for at-risk children, so they never have to experience the feeling of not knowing where they will sleep tonight, what they will eat tomorrow or live in a constant state of fear or anxiety.
Alarmingly 5000 Sunshine Coast children have been identified as being at risk this year. With figures like this, Mr Turner says it’s more important than ever for SunnyKids to expand prevention programs like Village Buddies, where adults volunteer to be matched with a Young Buddy to spend a couple of hours weekly or fortnightly.
Village Buddies are screened, trained and matched to young buddies’ interests and requirements. It may be as simple as kicking a ball around a park, teaching a child to fish or taking a child to sports sessions or art classes.
“These children could just need another positive person in their life, have grandparents as parents, or parents who are facing their own challenges and just need a break,” Mr Turner says.
“Village Buddies is a cost-effective program for us to run and it’s beneficial for us to get in early when problems are just starting. There is a huge difference between prevention and early intervention and crisis for us. We really would like to be doing as much prevention and early intervention as we can.”
At the end of the 2018 financial year, SunnyKids was facing the greatest demand on its services and resources in the history of the organisation.
And with government agencies, which are largely responsible for crisis care, also being overwhelmed with demand, Mr Turner says the local organisation has been tasked with filling the gap.
“It is hard to imagine a future where we don’t have 5000 kids in crisis, but at SunnyKids, we want to see a future where they can get immediate help,” he says.
“If we could decrease the number of children flowing into the crisis area, through effective prevention programs like Village Buddies, we are building that fence at the top of the cliff.”
Mr Turner says the organisation has set a goal to reach 1000 children this financial year and fundraising campaigns like the Santa 600, which is being spearheaded by Mix FM personalities Todd and Sami, will help them to gain the funding they need to expand the Village Buddies early intervention program as well as reach out to more children in crisis.
The campaign calls for 150 businesses or individuals to pledge $600 each to SunnyKids It Takes a Village to Raise a Child program, which would raise $90,000 for the organisation.
Mr Turner says people can commit to donating $1.64 a day for the year if that is more achievable for them.
The combination of the funding boost and an increase in the number of registered Village Buddies will stand SunnyKids in good stead to change many more lives in 2019.
To find out how you can become a Village Buddy or donate to the Santa 600 campaign, visit sunnykids.org.au.