Barona Bus Tour #banabarona

This story orignially appeared in the Ashland Times Gazette written By Courtney Day /T-G Staff

Bus makes Ashland stop to spark engagement, spread awareness

Times-Gazette photo/Joe Pelletier

Times-Gazette photo/Joe Pelletier

Whether it’s left by a professional artist or a small child, each mark left in the Barona bus is equal and valued, said artist Leah Foster.

Along with Botswana native Una Mulale, who now is a pediatric critical care specialist in Brooklyn, New York, Foster is traveling the country with her bus, which is participatory art for her master’s thesis project.

“The idea of the bus is it’s a moving container of engagement,” Mulale said.

Foster welcomes people of all ages and walks of life to paint, draw or write in the bus. She also has played host to dinner parties and other small gatherings within the space.

In April, the pair traveled from Texas to New York in the bus, making stops at schools, churches and community events. Thursday, they begin the trip back.

Foster and Mulale arranged stops in places where they had contacts, and Mulale met Ashland County residents Tom Roepke, Mitch Weber and Clay Sloan on an International Justice Mission Freedom Tour Ride in 2012 when they biked from Cincinnati to Washington, D.C., to raise awareness about human trafficking.

The bus was in Ashland on Friday afternoon, and community members were invited to come interact and make their mark on the space at First Presbyterian Church.

For Mulale, the bus tour is an opportunity to spread awareness about and possibly gain funds for her dream to build the first children’s hospital in Botswana.

The word Barona means “ours” in Setswana, and the pair hopes the project will empower the people they meet in the United States to believe they matter and eventually lead to the creation of a pediatric care center where every child matters.