Story Bus for the families of Ukraine

3 weeks ago Fri 2nd Feb 2024

Our Single -Decker bus has been converted into a story bus for children living in war-torn Ukraine.

Photo credit - SHAP inside the story bus

Hedingham and Chambers bus 910, which previously had been travelling the roads of Essex between Basildon and Brentwood was donated to the Swindon Humanitarian Aid Partnership (SHAP) by Go East Anglia.

Their parent company, the Go-Ahead Group have been generous supporters of SHAP over many months and across their many regional bus operating companies have donated 7 buses for use in Ukraine.

“The Go-Ahead Group was approached by SHAP’s Chair Mike Bowden earlier this year, to provide a bus so they could convert into a Children’s Story Bus said Head of Commercial and Marketing for Go East Anglia Davina Langley. 

We were delighted to get involved and drove a single decker bus, which although mechanically sound, had reached the end of its life in regular service from East Anglia to Swindon to begin its transformation.

Our buses play a vital part in bringing communities together, so we were very keen to support this project which would  provide a safe space for many families in Ukraine. 

In 90 days, the bus has had its seats removed, play tables and cupboards fitted, and an "enchanted forest" running the length of the bus has been painted by local Swindon artist Billy Beaumont.

"The ceiling incorporates planets and stars and goes from night to day, with lots of colourful birds flying around," he said. Along with Ukrainian figures in national costume, the inside of the bus has been decorated with Ukrainian bunting and the Ukrainian alphabet said Billy Beaumont

I managed to get some Ukrainian children to come in and do the letters," said Mr Beaumont. It would have taken me three hours - not knowing the alphabet at all - and it took them about 10 minutes."

SHAP was formed by Ukrainian, Polish, Lithuanian and British people living in Wiltshire to help people still in Ukraine and those seeking refuge in the UK after Russia invaded.

Mr Bowden, SHAP chairman, said children in Ukraine had "witnessed and experienced things that are unimaginable".Although we know we cannot conceivably remove their trauma, we can allow them to enjoy the colour and fun of the story bus," he said."And allow them to play and laugh as children should be able to do."

Photo credit - SHAP

The Children’s Story Bus will soon makes it's final journey to Western Ukraine.

Jordan Craig, Go-East Anglia's assistant operations manager, said he "didn't realise there's so much space in a single-decker bus. It's an amazing space - where kids can just enjoy themselves and be kids," he said.

The bus willl provide many children with a space to explore their creativity and imagination, bringing a glimmer of joy to their lives amidst challenging circumstances.

Copyright image - The Swindonian by Shaun Jones