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Dedicating a decade to helping vulnerable children

Helen Walker-McCready has been volunteering with SHINE for Kids for the last 10 years, supporting children and young people with a parent in Cessnock Correctional Centre.

SHINE for Kids is the only national charity supporting children with incarcerated parents from infancy to adulthood, working to strengthen their connection to community and family through education, support and mentoring.

“SHINE for Kids means a lot to me. It took a while to get to know the children and they need to have trust in us too, but now it’s lovely to see them smile, laugh and play games, reading books and colouring in stencils, which they all love to do,” Helen said.

You feel that you’ve made a positive impact and difference to their lives. It’s not about you. It’s what you can do for others.

“One day a family came into my work to thank me for everything I had done for them. They said that I had made a big difference and provided help when they needed it. They were leaving the area but wanted to drop in and say thank you.”

SHINE for Kids CEO Julie Hourigan Ruse said children with an incarcerated parent are the invisible victims of crime and face many challenges when their parent is imprisoned including separation, trauma, stigma and poverty.

“For 40 years, SHINE for Kids has supported children from birth to adulthood who have been affected by the criminal justice system. Our programs maintain family connection and work with children to navigate an extremely difficult time, ultimately, helping to break the cycle of intergenerational disadvantage,” Julie said.

“Helen has contributed much to SHINE for Kids during an incredible ten years with us, from setting up play areas and engaging shy children in activities to assisting families during drop-in services, Helen gives every person she encounters kindness and every task, large or small, the same committed attention.

“Because of this commitment and knowledge, she often takes new volunteers under her wing, guiding them and ensuring our families receive the best possible support. She is vital to our team and we have gained so much from having her on board.”

To recognise her efforts, Helen was awarded the Newcastle Permanent Charitable Foundation 2022 Chairman’s Medal.

First presented in 2018 in honour of the late Michael Slater, who served as Chair of the Newcastle Permanent Building Society and Newcastle Permanent Charitable Foundation for nearly ten years and spent more than 50 years volunteering his time and talents to local organisations, the Medal is annual recognition of an outstanding volunteer who sets aside their own priorities to better the community.

As well as Helen being awarded the Chairman’s Medal, SHINE for Kids will receive a $5,000 grant to be used for volunteer training, development and recognition.

Helen Walker McCready
2022 Chairman’s Medal recipient,
Helen Walker-McCready.

About SHINE for kids

SHINE for Kids support children, young people and families with relatives in the criminal justice system. SHINE for Kids has a firm belief in the power of early intervention and a focus on collaboration to reduce the negative effects of parental imprisonment on children and young people.

The programs operate through their child and family centres as well as prison based services. As well as the practical day-to-day assistance, they are also committed to improving community awareness and knowledge of issues that affect children and families dealing with incarceration.