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  • 18 June 2010 16:11

Voices Of Teenage Refugees Confronting Racism & Bullying In A New Country Explored In Moving Documentary To Be Launched During International Refugee Week

The Australian Literacy & Numeracy Foundation (ALNF) and BYDS (Bankstown Youth Development Services) launches collaborative RAS Documentary

* The Verizon Foundation has announced the award of a grant of $25,000 to establish the Verizon Literacy Support Program in Australia.

* This is a new initiative that will work with existing Australian Literacy & Numeracy Foundation (ALNF) initiatives to help develop literacy skills and encourage the enjoyment of reading amongst children and adults in Western Sydney, Tennant Creek and Wagga Wagga.

* Verizon employees will volunteer their time to support in‐person and virtual reading initiatives building on Verizon Thinkfinity (www.thinkfinity.org), a free educational website that contains tens of thousands of educational resources designed to engage students and improve academic achievement.

* The grant is part of Verizon Business’ Australian community engagement program, which aims to foster links between the company and those communities where Verizon employees and customers live and work.

Sydney, Australia - 17 June 2010 - The Australian Literacy & Numeracy Foundation (ALNF) and BYDS (Bankstown Youth Development Services) are thrilled to launch the collaborative RAS Documentary on Monday 21 June at Blacktown Library to open International Refugee Week.

Throughout November 2009 BYDS facilitated Forum Theatre and Writing Workshops in seven schools throughout Western Sydney as part of the RAS (Refugee Action Support) program funded by ALNF. Filmotion Productions captured the workshops and the material has been made into a compelling documentary that explores the experiences, relationships and outcomes developed through ALNF’s RAS program.

Neil Trindall, Indigenous Youth Arts Officer & Writing Workshop facilitator, BYDS: "The use of forum theatre and creative writing workshops with young students of refugee background is a brilliant way to discuss serious issues like racism, bullying and adjusting into a new country. Such workshops not only strengthen literacy skills but also encourage confidence and thoughtful understanding about serious issues affecting young people."

The personal stories developed by students during the RAS Writing Workshops will be published in the next edition of the Westside Jr. - the only on going literary publication that sources young writers from Western Sydney. The theme and title is Violence.

Michael Mohammed Ahmad, Chief Editor, Westside Publications: "RAS has been a unique opportunity for Western Sydney's finest performers and writers to enhance the lives of young refugees from the region. This process has been two way and the ensemble of artists brought together for the project have also had life-changing experiences. In my five years of editing and sourcing young writers from Western Sydney, I have never encountered such honest, unpretentious and incidentally poetic writing and stories such as those written by the participants of this amazing project."

The screening of the documentary will be followed by an impromptu live Theatre Workshop on the International Refugee Week theme of ‘Freedom From Fear’ and a panel discussion featuring RAS students and the young writers and performers from BYDS who were involved in the project.

Verizon Literacy Support Program

The RAS Documentary Launch event also marks the award of a $25,000 grant from the Verizon Foundation to establish the Verizon Literacy Support Program, a new initiative that will work in conjunction with existing ALNF initiatives to help develop literacy skills and encourage the enjoyment of reading amongst children and adults in Western Sydney, Tennant Creek and Wagga Wagga. Verizon employees will volunteer their time to support in-person and virtual reading initiatives building on Verizon Thinkfinity (www.thinkfinity.org), a free educational website that contains tens of thousands of educational resources designed to engage students and improve academic achievement.

The grant is part of Verizon Business’ Australian community engagement program, which aims to foster links between the company and those communities where Verizon employees and customers live and work.

John Karabin, area vice president of Verizon Business Australia and New Zealand commented: “Literacy skills are key for students’ future success, and we are delighted to be able to join the ALNF to assist its existing initiatives in this area. Our global community programs enable our own employees to give something back to their community, while broadening their own horizons, perspectives and experience. We are delighted to be able to offer our support.”

Eric Brace, Executive Educational Adviser, ALNF: "It is vital to provide spaces – both educational and creative - where young people can feel supported to express themselves without fear. ALNF greatly appreciates the significant assistance it receives from schools, the community and its partners in making these spaces available."

The Australian Literacy & Numeracy Foundation (ALNF) is a philanthropic organisation dedicated to raising language, literacy and numeracy standards in Australia and raises funds to develop, implement and sustain innovative projects for individuals, families and communities. ALNF's programs span from early years learning through to adolescent and adult learning needs and address the needs of a diverse range of individuals and communities, including Indigenous, refugee and migrant communities.

ALNF’s RAS program has been running since 2007 with the support of the University of Western Sydney, NSW DET and participating schools. Through the RAS program the ALNF recruits, trains and places university students in schools with a high refugee representation to provide young refugees with opportunities to learn, explore and develop through strong relationships. For more information on ALNF visit www.alnf.org

BYDS (Bankstown Youth Development Service) initiates arts and cultural programs to create strong and sustainable communities in the Bankstown area. Since 1991 BYDS has instigated and run over a hundred distinct projects that have brought together thousands of people at screenings, launches, events and performances covering every kind of art and cultural pursuit. For more information on BYDS visit www.byds.org.au

The Verizon Foundation , the philanthropic arm of Verizon Communications, supports the advancement of literacy and primary and secondary education through Verizon Thinkfinity, and fosters awareness and prevention of domestic violence. In 2009, the Verizon Foundation awarded $67.9 million in grants to nonprofit agencies in the U.S. and abroad. It also matched the charitable donations of Verizon employees and retirees, resulting in $26.1 million in combined contributions to nonprofits. Through Verizon Volunteers, one of the largest employee volunteer programs in the United States, Verizon employees and retirees have volunteered more than 5 million hours of community service since 2000. For more information on the foundation, visit www.verizonfoundation.org.

Media Contact:

Gabriel Wong

Max Australia

+ 61 2 9954 3492

gabriel.wong@maxaustralia.com.au

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