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About Us

Pillars Ka Pou Whakahou is a charity that exists to support the tamariki and whānau of people in prison to create positive futures for themselves.


Our main objective is to build a community where every child who has a parent or caregiver in prison or serving a community sentence, has access to support and appropriate services; to create a positive future for themselves.


Pillars mahi consists of programmes which range across wrap-around social work services for whānau and mentoring for children.


We work in prisons and the community and have a team of well trained, experienced staff in Tāmaki Makaurau (Auckland), Ōtautahi (Christchurch) as well as services in Kirikiriroa (Hamilton) and Waihōpai (Invercargill).


Children of people in prison carry an invisible sentence, one of stigma and shame that goes unnoticed in our current justice system.

Children of people in prison are often socially and economically isolated and with no support are 9.5x more likely to go to prison themselves.


Pillars Ka Pou Whakahou goal is to help stop intergenerational offending, so children of people in prison do not become the next generation incarcerated.

Pillars Ka Pou Whakahou is one of a few organisations that support the invisible victims of crime; children and families of people serving a sentence.

As a charity, we provide free, confidential, and non-judgemental support for families and children who have whānau serving a sentence.


Pillars Ka Pou Whakahou was founded by Verna McFelin in 1988 after her husband went to prison. She was left with 4 children and no support. First Pillars was a support group for other mothers with partners in prison, today it is a national charity upholding the rights of children of people in prison. 


Pillars Ka Pou Whakahou was instrumental in creating the Children’s Bill of Rights for children who have a parent in prison. Pillars continues to strongly advocate for the rights of families impacted by a family members sentence with Ara Poutama (The Department of Corrections).

We have a team of specialist staff delivering wrap-around support, social work services to families in Tāmaki Makaurau (Auckland) and Ōtautahi (Christchurch). We also work in Kirikiriroa (Hamilton) and Waihōpai (Invercargill). We have two pathway centres based in Christchurch Men’s Prison and Invercargill Prison.

There is also a team of incredible volunteers, who give up their weekends and spare time to mentor hundreds of children who are facing some of the most challenging and difficult times in their lives.

Our Values


Whānaungatanga (Relationships, Kinship and Connection)

Tiriti o Waitangi is the framework for partnerships between tangata whenua and tangata tiriti.   We respect Te Tiriti o Waitangi and its principles within our work.


Pono (Integrity)

We uphold high professional standards.   We demonstrate honesty, decency and trustworthiness.


Rangatiratanga (Leadership)

We value effective leadership at all levels of our organisation: tamariki, whānau, Māori, partners and stakeholders. We act with integrity, accept accountability, insist on excellence and support innovation.


Ako (Learning)

We embrace the process of reciprocal learning.   We learn from our families and our families learn from us.    We produce new knowledge and deepen our understanding through research and experience.


Aroha, Tautoko (Love and Support)

Our every action comes from a place of love, compassion, support, inclusiveness and empathy.


Tika (Fair and Just)

We treat our families and whānau, our partners and stakeholders with equal value.  We respect their beliefs and practices.  We uphold the Children of Prisoners’ Bill of Rights.


Mana Tūpuna

We respect the unique values, beliefs, and customs of indigenous peoples from lands across Te Moana-nui-a-kiwa.

Our Board

The Pillars Ka Pou Whakahou Board brings together a wide range of skills, experience and knowledge which are important for the organisation.

They provide governance and strategic guidance to the General Manager and Executive Management Team.

Nick Burns

Nick has an extensive business background and is a member of the senior leadership group at Jade Software Corporation in Christchurch. Nick has mentored and coached several individuals and organisations, including The Clown Doctors Charitable Trust, which works to bring joy to children and senior citizens in times of need. Nick has been a Pillars Ka Pou Whakahou mentor since early 2020.

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Sandra McCallum

Sandra has worked in leadership positions in education for 35 years. She was principal of Mt Cook school in Wellington for 15 years. This was followed by being interim General Manager for ChangeMakers Resettlement Forum (an NGO that works with/for Kiwis from a Refugee Background in the areas of Advocacy, Research and Community Development.)

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Kristen Spooner

Kristen has worked in the sustainability and community development space for over 16 years in NZ and the UK. She holds a Bachelor of Social Science (hons) and a Master of Environmental Planning. A key strength is her ability to translate strategy into action. She excels in the delivery of projects and programmes that achieve tangible positive outcomes for people and the environment. As a Mum of two, Kristen is passionate about the wellbeing of children in Aotearoa New Zealand.

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