The ASRC are releasing bilingual versions of My Two Blankets

In 2018, The Readings Foundation is supporting the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre in publishing three bilingual editions of the award-winning My Two Blankets picture book. Our Grants Officer Gabrielle Williams shares some insight into this exciting project and the other work done by this amazing organisation.

When I think of asylum seekers in Melbourne, I don’t think of cumin and turmeric and chilli and lentils and salads. I don’t think of groups of people talking and laughing and exchanging stories with friends and strangers over long tables. I don’t think of ever-so-cute children running around the dining room, happy and well looked after. But visiting the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC) in Footscray a couple of weeks ago gave me a new insight into asylum seekers in Melbourne.

It’s not that life isn’t still difficult for these people – it undoubtedly is. More than half of the around 30,000 people seeking asylum in Australia receive no support from Government. For the 12,000 or so who do, the federal government is playing funny buggers with their support payment (the SRSS). The federal government is implementing a plan to remove people from this small income support with only 7-10 days notice. The concern from charities working on the frontline is that the number of families who won’t be able to pay rent or buy food will double. The risk of homelessness will escalate.

The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre is stretched to its limits to provide assistance to those who already receive no support, and when Mark Rubbo and I visited a couple of weeks ago, it was clear how many people are needing help.

But the overall feeling of the centre? Joy. Community. Bustle. Thriving children. And amazingly tasty food (Mark and I were lucky enough to sit down and enjoy a meal – one of the perks of my job!). More than 200 people are fed every single lunchtime at the ASRC, an important meal that may be their only meal of the day.

The ASRC works to provide not only concrete aid, but also to provide emotional support to asylum seekers, to value the knowledge and skills they can offer our community. To this end, the Readings Foundation awarded a $14,500 grant to the ASRC to publish three bilingual versions (in Arabic, Farsi and Dari) of the award-winning My Two Blankets by Irena Kobald and Freya Blackwood. These new editions will be launched later this year through publisher Hardie Grant Egmont. The book was translated by ASRC members who worked together with a professional translator.

The impact of a beautifully produced picture book, in the language of an asylum seeker’s home country, cannot be overestimated. Zakia, an asylum seeker who arrived from Afghanistan three years ago and worked as a translator on the My Two Blankets project explains it this way: ‘The story, it is a good story especially for refugees, it is exactly the same situation as us refugees when we come to Australia, so it is like that. We have been in this situation, so we understand. And the paper, the quality of the book, it makes an impact on children, on people. It’s important.’

Kirsty Sword-Gusmao (Project Coordinator) added that it’s important for parents to be able to read to their children in their home tongue. Seeing a picture book in their own language gives a legitimacy to asylum seekers, letting them know that we, in Australia, welcome them and want them to feel at home. It was also a tangible way of providing work for asylum seekers. Sword-Gusmao says: ‘We thought it would be a lovely idea, with the help of our members, to translate a work of children’s literature, and to then promote that resulting book amongst our members and maybe run some workshops with them about the importance of home language maintenance.’

Look out for the launch of the three bilingual versions of My Two Blankets at Readings Carlton on Thursday 25 October, 2018.

Readings donates 10% of its overall profit to the Readings Foundation each year, and crucial funds are also raised from donations by Readings customers.

Find a list of all the organisations the Readings Foundation is supporting in 2018, and learn about their projects, here. You can also make a donation to the Readings Foundation here.

Or, if you’d like to donate directly to the ASRC, please go here.

My Two Blankets

My Two Blankets

Irena Kobald, Freya Blackwood

$14.99Buy now

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