A group of 15 children and their mothers, who are in Australia seeking asylum, took part in a creative excursion to the Auburn Friendship Garden, organised by SSI and the Sydney Writers’ Festival (SWF) for the school holidays.
Actor Zoe Carides reading to children and mothers.
The children, aged two to 15 years old, had a day full of activities on October 4, with a mosaic and embroidery workshop, lunch and the visit of Russ the Story Bus — a bus converted into a mobile library by the SWF.
"Russ the Story Bus is a creative space where children can browse a library full of the latest children’s books, choose a book to take home and listen to a story read by one of our volunteers," SWF Head of Children & Young Adults Programs Claire Sawyer said.
The bus, which started bringing books to children in Western Sydney in 2014, has been decorated outside by internationally celebrated children’s author, illustrator and Academy Award winner Shaun Tan, from Western Australia.
For this event, Russ the Story Bus drove to the Friendship Garden that SSI maintains in Auburn and opened its door to an excited group of children who ran inside to make sure they could get thebooks they wanted.
After the children had chosen books to take home, Australian actors Natalie Saleeba, Zoe Carides and Laurence Coy arrived at the bus to read stories to an enthusiastic audience.
"When the bus arrived, the young kids were enthralled about reading books inside and thought it was really cool," SSI Community Engagement team member Diana Nguyen said.
"The rest of the activities we had planned for the day also went very well and everyone was happy and running around excitedly."
"Initially we had prepared the mosaic and embroidery activities for the mothers, but the kids appeared to have engrossed themselves in the mosaics while the mothers enjoyed each other’s company."
SSI Arts & Culture Program’s collaboration with SWF began in 2015 as part of the My Story project , where children aged 5 to 18 supported by SSI programs participated in a series of workshops as a platform for telling their stories as the new faces of Western Sydney. The touching texts resulting from the workshops were published on the SWF website.
Russ the Story Bus will continue visiting schools in the Western Sydney area in November and will hit the road in December heading towards rural NSW, where it will bring books and joy to primary schools located in Orange, Bathurst and Dubbo, among others.
To find out more about the bus’ upcoming dates and locations, visit the SWF website.