A Mile In My Shoes shares stories from the Illawarra community

IN HER SHOES: ​Francis Htjaru, Bawmeh Bird, Lillian Rodrigues-Pang and Wafaa Izz Eddin share their stories in an audio exhibition at Wollongong Town Hall, part of Refugee Week. Picture: Adam McLean
IN HER SHOES: ​Francis Htjaru, Bawmeh Bird, Lillian Rodrigues-Pang and Wafaa Izz Eddin share their stories in an audio exhibition at Wollongong Town Hall, part of Refugee Week. Picture: Adam McLean

Shoes are the focus of a podcast exhibition at the Wollongong Town Hall foyer this week.

A display of footwear will accompany a collection of recorded stories to form A Mile In My Shoes, a project between Merrigong Theatre Company and SCARF (Strategic Community Assistance to Refugee Families).

Eugenia Pyne fled West Africa due to civil war and spent nine years in a refugee camp before moving to Australia, but she wanted to share the story of the first shoes she owned.

Ms Pyne was the second girl in her village to graduate year six, but she needed to wear proper footwear for the three-day celebrations (her parents could only afford thongs during primary school).

“For the first time my older sister took me to the shopping centre and I actually chose my dream shoes, high heels,” she said.

The first pair “wasn’t too bad”. The second pair “was a bit too high and a bit uncomfortable.

By the time the young Ms Pyne got to the third day where she was required to give a speech at church in her dream shoes, the pain was unbearable.

[The stories make] us look like the same human beings no matter what experience and where we came from.

Eugenia Pyne

“In my really high heels for the first time, oh my God, standing there … the shoes were distracting me from doing the speech,” she laughed.

“At the end, everybody wears shoes.

“[The stories make] us look like the same human beings no matter what experience and where we came from.”

Wafaa Izz Eddin agreed a simple shoe could bring people together.

The story she tells was risking her life in Syria to buy her young daughter special shoes to accommodate a medical condition.

Ms Eddin had to travel past more than 20 checkpoints to Damascus, dodging bullets and arrest.

Merrigong community engagement co-ordinator Lillian Rodrigues-Pang said everyone will be able to relate to these stories.

“We can empathise with the joy of jumping in puddles, with the difficulty of wearing high heels for the first time, with the pain of holes in shoes, with the hope that our children can walk one day,” she said.

“All people have stories, some of them ordinary everyday stories, some of them extraordinary stories of resilience, survival, humanity.”

Ms Rodrigues-Pang said sharing these stories about shoes and feet connects “diverse, powerful, interesting and funny” people in the community.

Several storytellers will be part of a live version of the exhibition Wednesday, 6pm, at Wollongong Town Hall.

The free event is one of several across the day, celebrating the positive contributions of refugees to society.

For more information visit: www.merrigong.com.au 

Read more: Figtree mum to eat like a refugee for a week