Pillars programme reaches out to children of incarcerated prisoners

By Taroi Black

The new Pillars facility will open to the community tonight, aiming to help children of incarcerated prisoners live crime-free lives.

Boxing star Dave "The Brown Buttabean" Letele was without a father for some time as a young kid.  He says, "Something I identify with, my father was sentenced to ten years when I was five years old."

"I moved to Australia to live with my grandparents and you don't know as a kid what's going on but times were hard when I was crying for my father while I was in Australia."

Now Letele is helping to advocate for Pillars as they await the opening of their brand new facility to help other children in South Auckland.

"We need to try and break the cycle and that's what Pillars is about, and one of the ways is having positive role models whether it will be ambassadors like myself or people who come and become mentors," explained Letele.

One of those mentors is social worker Lois Naere, who has worked with many whānau and prisoners over the last five years.

87% of the children who work with the South Auckland office are Māori.

Naere says, "For many of our families in South Auckland their mums often say to me, "I got seven kids Lois and I know it is really hard for me to give them that special one on one time" and it's that decision that makes them want to provide a mentor."

The charity is also responding to the increased number of children of prisoners still on the waiting list.  18 out of 21 boys are also Māori.

"I'll often get phone calls from the prison and from dads pleading with us to go in and work with their children because they don't want the same for them," said Naere.

There are only three social workers for Pillars at this stage in South Auckland.  But with the opening of the new facility, they're aiming to add more workers over the next five years.