What Can One Person Do?: The Unknown Project Australia

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If you’ve ever had an out-of-the-box idea for a way to assist refugees and asylum seekers in your local community but were worried the idea was too small or obscure to work, then Olivia and Rory’s story is one you need to hear.

We are super excited to welcome The Unknown Project Australia to our blog today to find out more about their simple and creative project to raise funds for school supplies for refugees and asylum seekers in Brisbane.


Unknown Project logo

The Unknown Project is a Brisbane based initiative aiming to facilitate cultural exchange through educational opportunities for kids from refugee backgrounds.

Inspired by the ‘lucky-dip’ second-hand books at Shakespeare & Co in Paris and the ‘blind date with a book’ concept, we wanted to bring this sweet idea to Brisbane readers. We cover selected and recommended second-hand books (and poems!) in brown paper, with only a few lines on the cover detailing the genre, plot and an ‘if you like this’ section. 

While we think this idea is cool on its own (we are both big book nerds), we think it has the power to make a real social difference.

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There’s just two of us in our little operation – Rory (19) and Olivia (20). We are best friends and both study Economics/Law at QUT, while we’re both working part-time at law firms. We have been known to call each other at 2am with wild and wonderful social enterprise/business ideas – and this just happened to be one of them!

We are passionate about educational opportunities for all, and want to facilitate, even in this small way, access to the incredible opportunities we were privileged to experience. We believe that integration into Australian culture is a two-way street, and want to encourage this inter-cultural exchange as we welcome new Australians.

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Our first pop-up was at Suitcase Rummage in the Brisbane CBD. We weren’t sure how it would be received, and were absolutely overwhelmed at the response. We sold all but two books and all of our poetry packs!

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We couldn’t have asked for a better debut!

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With the proceeds, we have purchased school resources for The Romero Centre in Brisbane (we’ve just received our first shipment!). We have two types – a primary school pack, and secondary school pack and will be able to supply about 20 in this first round.

We’re currently sending out our first set of school packs, and then we’ll be organising the next pop-up, so check out our FacebookIn the future, we are hoping to establish and sponsor a homework club through the Romero Centre, to continue the initiative, and re-invest the beneficiaries back into the program.

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We are yet to purchase a book for our project, taking in generous donations from our partners. At this stage, we have had donations from Avid Reader and Riverbend bookshops, The Footpath Library, and many of our friends.

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(Don’t worry – if we find we can’t use them in our project, we’ll be happy to pass them on to The Footpath Library).

The rhetoric and debate surrounding the arrival of refugees in Australia has been divisive and charged over the years. It’s easy to become complacent or apathetic to when mainland Australia is so (literally!) removed from confronting offshore detention and refugee settlement. There are an abundance of incredible initiatives all around Australia working tirelessly for refugee rights. Not everyone has the capacity to give a voice on Q&A or volunteer their time, but even a donation goes a long way.

That’s why we are so excited by the prospects that social enterprise offers – Startups like Words With Heart (a Brisbane stationery initiative facilitating education for women in developing nations – check them out!) deliver an incredible product and are fundamentally defined by their social cause.”

Inspired yet?  We certainly are!

Teddy Bears Without Borders would like to thank Olivia and Rory from The Unknown Project Australia for sharing their story with us.  You can find the project on Facebook here and on Instagram here.

If you know of an individual or group that would like to be featured in our What Can One Person Do? series, please ask them to get in touch via the Teddy Bears Without Borders Facebook page. 

If you would like to contribute to any of Teddy Bears Without Borders current projects, just click here for more information.

 

 

Knitfest Project Update: Piecing Things Together!

Our Knitfest Yarnbombing Project in support of refugees and asylum seekers is well under way, with crafters from all walks of life contributing to our piece.   Our finished piece will be an ode to those refugees and asylum seekers who have risked everything in coming across the sea to seek safety and will represent the safe harbour that we hope all these people will find.

presentation sisters yarn bombing kits

We’ve been sharing the project around, calling out for more helpers and Elizabeth Strakosch from Mums4Refugees even managed to recruit some Presentation Sisters to the cause!

As you can see, the piece representing the sea which will go around the main trunk of the tree, is coming along nicely, with lots of contributors including Colleen McHugh, Laura Diete and Nicki Clarke – thanks ladies!  We will still need more strips of blue though as the trunk is over two metres around and nearly a metre high!

We have also started receiving some gold, yellow, orange and white motifs which will adorn the top of our tree as harbour lights, shining a welcoming glow.  We’ll need a stack of these to make our piece stand out, and to that end, we’d love to invite you all along to our first ever get-together….the Teddies Without Borders/Mums 4 Refugees POMPOM-A-THON!

pompomathon event pic

This event is a final push to get all our bits and pieces finished before Knitfest in July. We will be at Riverside Green at Southbank Parklands in Brisbane on Saturday the 10th of June from 9am til noon making pompoms, working on motifs and generally having a good chat with all you like-minded folk.  Bring the kids along if you like as there is a playground right next to the green (as well as coffee!) and stay for the whole time or just a short time.  You can find out more about the event and register your interest on our Facebook page here.

The date also coincides with World Knit in Public Day just quietly. *wink*

If you can’t get to our Pom-A-Thon, we’d still love your help to complete this piece.  You can check out the project requirements here and keep in mind that all pieces will need to be received by post or drop-off by June 10th, 2017.

 

 

Bon Voyage! Operation Hope Teddies Heading to Iraq

The first phase of our involvement in the Operation Hope Teddy Project has come to a close with our teddies heading off to Iraq to cheer up some children in desperate need of a bit of joy.  I dropped off the Teddy Bears Without Borders contingent to Leanne Rogers last week and they will be added to the collection that the Operation Hope team has been putting together to take with them that includes warm hats and jumpers.

Leanne said….

“Meet some fabulous little friends made by Teddies Without Borders knitters in Brisbane. These cute friends are heading to Iraq with me to give to kids coming through the AdventistHelp emergency medical Unit in a refugee camp just outside of Mosul. ISIS banned all dolls and toys so these teddies will find friends very quickly. Thanks Erica for organising this project.”

knitfest teddies bon voyage

We ended up with about 90 teddies in this shipment and thank you to Renee Bratby, Belinda Young, Elizabeth McLeod, Pat Rudd and L. Grey who contributed teddies.

Thank you also to Erica Henley who originally reached out to Teddy Bears Without Borders to see if we would like to be involved.

Erica said…

“Thank you so much to the wonderful knitters of the teddies that are going to Iraq next week. They will be gifted to children that come as patients to a new field hospital 25kms east of Mosul. For some of these children, it will be their only furry friend. 6 Aussies have the privilege as volunteers at the hospital to hand out these gorgeous teddies. You have created a brighter future for these displaced children. Thank you.”

Erica and Leanne and all your team, THANK YOU for making a positive difference for refugee and asylum seeker children and those affected by war.

If you would like to contribute to this project there is still time!  Check out the project page for patterns and please note that all teddies will now need to be posted/dropped to:

Operation Hope Teddy Project

Erica Henley

47 Coal Point Road

Coal Point  NSW  2283

and all teddies must be received by May 19th, 2017.

If you are interested in crafting teddies but this project doesn’t fit your timeframe, check out our StandBy Teddy Project, which is ongoing.

 

 

What Can One Person Do? Cath Mundy and Community Choirs..

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Today we’re sitting down with Cath Mundy to hear about her involvement in community choirs and the benefits these provide for refugees, asylum seekers, new arrivals and anyone who is looking for connection and fellowship in a supportive environment.

“I am the conductor of three community choirs, two in Logan [south of Brisbane] and one in the CBD in Brisbane.  

Two of these choirs are very accessible via public transport and are for all levels of singing experience, while one (Freedom Train) is an intermediate choir which runs Monday evenings in Waterford.

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Mixed Beans at Beenleigh Library is a multicultural choir so we have a strong focus on songs from around the world and social inclusion.  You don’t have be a singer  – all levels of experience from complete beginners onwards are welcome. Mixed Beans runs every Tuesday during school terms from 4.30-6pm in the Library and membership is free.  

With One Voice Brisbane runs in the Wynnum Room at the Brisbane City Hall every Wednesday (apart from a break over summer holidays), from 5:30-7:30pm including a free supper supplied by Ozharvest.  Membership costs vary depending on financial circumstances including fully-sponsored positions for those in need – we want everyone to join in the fun.  

Social inclusion for people from every walk of life is the choir’s philosophy and again all levels of singing experience from beginner onwards is welcome.

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Becoming part of a community doing regular activities together helps promote a great sense of connection and well-being.  Singing itself is also a very health-giving activity especially in a safe and supportive environment of a community choir lead by a conductor who caters to all ages, backgrounds and levels of experience.

Here is a video of all three of Cath’s community choirs performing Refugee (Have Mercy):

 

For more information on any of Cath’s choirs, visit their Facebook pages (links above) or contact Cath at cathjay@mundyturner.com for more information.

We’d like to thank Cath for sharing her story with us!

If you know of an individual or group that would like to be featured in our What Can One Person Do? series, please ask them to get in touch via the Teddy Bears Without Borders Facebook page. 

If you would like to contribute to any of Teddy Bears Without Borders current projects, just click here for more information.

 

Project Updates: March 2017

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Time to check in on how we’re all travelling as Autumn descends…supposedly…and the weather gets better for those of us who spend our days covered in yarn.  Our three current projects are off to a flying start, although we are always happy to welcome more crafters on board at any time.  Click on the “Current Projects” tab on the main page for all the details you’ll need to contribute to all of our projects.

Operation Hope Teddy Project Update

I’m reliably assured that there are many of you working away in the background in order to get your tiny teddies to us by the first shipment date of April 20th, 2017.  For those of you who are pacing yourselves, there will also be a second shipment date deadline of May 19th, 2017, so there’s still plenty of time to get those teddies made and ready to ship outoperation hope little ted 1!

I spent a nice rainy day designing a pattern for a teddy of the right size.  Despite  his crooked nose, I think he turned out rather well!  I’m hoping to write out the pattern with some accompanying photos and post it on this site in the not too distant future in case others want to make some teddies from this pattern.  Of course, there are plenty of patterns for those of you already knitting, sewing or crocheting on our information page for this project, which you can access by clicking here and scrolling down the page a bit.

Standby Trauma Teddy Project

We were recently approached by Linda Fielding from Standby 24hr Response Service, which is a community based program providing support for families bereaved by the suicide of a loved one.  Linda was requesting standard sized trauma teddies for their home visits; Standby’s stocks of teddies had been completely depleted as the service had already been called on to assist more than 40 families since the beginning of the year.  I was lucky to be able to drop off an initial donation of 19 teddies to Linda this past week and she was supremely grateful to receive them.

The bears pictured here that I delivered to Linda were made by Carol Twiddy (bottom right – all the way from Victoria!) and Sue Shaw and the craft group at Holy Cross Primary School at Woolloowin in Brisbane (pictured top right and left).  Massive thanks to Carol, Sue and the craft group for your contribution!

This project will be ongoing for the moment, as Linda assured me that the need for trauma teddies is constant in their support work.  For more information on what we need for this project, click here.

Knitfest Yarnbombing in Support of Refugees and Asylum Seekers

As part of Maleny’s annual fibre arts festival, Knitfest, held over the weekend of July 8th and 9th, Mums 4 Refugees and Teddy Bears Without Borders are joining forces to take part in the tree decorating competition.  The theme for the festival is “Under the Sea” and our tree will be tweaking that theme a bit to represent “safe harbour” for refugees and asylum seekers.

So far, myself and Laura, Andrea-Jade, Colleen and others from Mums4Refugees have been working away creating blue strips for the “sea” element of the design, as you can see below.

The tree is a right big old mama though, so the more the merrier!  This is a great project for using up scraps of yarn AND trying out all those new stitches and techniques you want to have a go at, because it doesn’t matter if you make a few mistakes here and there when you’re yarnbombing!

As well as strips of blues and greens, we’ll also need lots of yellow motifs and pompoms, so to find out how to contribute to this project, just click here.

Are you working on any items for one of our projects?  Let us know in the comments below or upload some pics to the Teddy Bears Without Borders Facebook page!

 

 

What Can One Person Do? Welcome Tees by Lara Jonata

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Today’s “What Can One Person Do?” post will introduce you to Lara Jonata, a mum who wanted to use her creative skills to say “Welcome!” using the medium of tshirts. Be sure to visit her on Facebook !

Here, Lara explains how she got involved in creating Welcome tshirts for the general public.

Lara Welcome tee


My Welcome Tee is a project by my kids and me. 

We make t shirts to promote the message that asylum seekers and refugees are welcome.   It began when I wanted to wear the message, but there weren’t any shirts that were right, so I figured I’d make some, for my kids and myself. My friend encouraged me to make it into a facebook page, so others were encouraged to make their own.  Turns out, people generally aren’t so crafty but they do want tshirts.
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Also, the children have unique perspectives and they came up with their own themes like “football without borders” and “refugees welcome in my treehouse”. The tshirts are hand printed, often with applique or artwork by the kids.

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We give them to refugee advocates who are working hard to enact change, and we also sell them to raise money for people in detention on Manus and Nauru. All profit is donated in the form of phone credit so our friends in limbo can keep in contact with family and the outside world. Although it’s only small, we figure it’s a way that we can show our support for those in desperate need, trapped in a tragic situation.

welcome tees collage

 

People buy our shirts to wear them to protests or public events, and more generally to raise awareness and start conversations about refugees.  If they can change one mind, recruit one more advocate for the cause, then it’s working.    
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Whatever endeavour you put your effort into, it will grow and evolve into its own thing.  It doesn’t need to be clear from the start.  Stick it on social media and people will support you.  


We’d like to thank Lara for sharing her story with us and for her great initiative in welcoming refugees AND raising funds to support asylum seekers.

If you know of an individual or group that would like to be featured in our What Can One Person Do? series, please ask them to get in touch via the Teddy Bears Without Borders Facebook page. 

If you would like to contribute to any of Teddy Bears Without Borders current projects, just click here for more information.

From Sudan to Australia: YA Novel Trouble Tomorrow

For those wanting to know more about the real background stories of refugees and asylum seekers, novels like these are a great place to start. Check out this new release young adult novel about Obulejo from Sudan.

The Bookshelf Gargoyle

trouble tomorrow Trouble Tomorrow by Terry Whitebeach & Sarafino Enadio.  Published by Allen & Unwin, 25th January 2017.  RRP: $16.99

Given the current global refugee crisis, it is more important than ever that we hear stories of people who have been forced to leave their homes, and YA novel Trouble Tomorrow by Terry Whitebeach and Sarafino Enadio is an absorbing and eye-opening addition to this canon of literature.  We received a copy from Allen & Unwin Australia for review and here is the blurb from Goodreads:

Based on a true story, this compelling novel tells an incredible tale of courage, resilience and hope, about a Sudanese boy who survives civil war, a treacherous journey and many years in a refugee camp before finding peace.

Obulejo dreams he is standing by the stream with his friend Riti, hauling in spangled tilapia fish, one after the other … Tat-tat-tat-tat! Brrrmm! Rrrrr! Ul-lu-lu-lu-lah! Obulejo slams awake…

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