The people of Swindon have come together to create a truly unique gift for children still living in war-torn Ukraine.

For months, the Swindon Humanitarian Aid Partnership (SHAP) has been supporting locally based Ukrainians who have been forced to leave as well as delivering nearly 2000 tonnes of aid to those still living there.

Working with the Go-Ahead Group, which runs Swindon's Bus Company, the organisation wanted to find a way to provide some fun, colour and joy for the many young children still living in Ukraine.

And so the notion of The Children’s Story Bus was born.

The Go-Ahead Group has donated 7 buses for use in Ukraine, often as a mobile hospital, but it once again decided to donate to this slightly different cause.

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

"Go East Anglia who provide local bus and school services across Norfolk, Essex and Suffolk were delighted to get involved and we 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 keen to get involved in a project to provide a safe space to support the communities of Ukraine.

"We are very proud to be part of this wonderful project and hope many children in Ukraine will spend many happy hours playing on the bus.”

The centrepiece of the Play Bus is a spectacular mural designed and painted by local artist Billy Beaumont, who was helped by Ukrainian child refugees living in the town.

Billy said: “I have followed the work of SHAP for many months and like them I am always keen to give something back to those needing some kindness and support.

"I couldn’t resist the opportunity to create a colourful and thought-provoking play area for the children of Ukraine.

"I’ve incorporated iconic images from Britain and Ukraine into the mural.

"I’ve met many of the locally based Ukrainians and am amazed at their resilience and determination to find work and play a full part in Swindon’s community.

"I hope the bus spends many months touring Ukraine, helping to inspire the healthy imagination of children, a safe and colourful space to create and learn.”

SHAP Chair Mike Bowden said: “So many people have given their time and skill to transform an ordinary British bus into something very special for the children of Ukraine.

"Particular thanks must go to Arend who removed the seats and installed the cupboards and tables; to Go-East Anglia for giving us a bus to convert; to all the many SHAP volunteers who helped paint the mural and cleaned the bus -but most of all huge thanks to Billy -who has spent a dozen or more days creating something magical for the youngsters of Ukraine to enjoy.

"The work at SHAP will continue for as long as Ukraine and Ukrainians need our support. We have many exciting initiatives in the pipeline.

"We will be marking the 2nd anniversary of the Russian invasion with a concert featuring the Swindon Concert Band at Christ Church, Old Town, Swindon at 7.30pm on Saturday, February 24.

"Let’s fill the church to show our unwavering support for our Ukrainian friends”

The costs of refurbishment of the bus and its journey to Ukraine have been met by a donation from Swindon Lions from the profits made at their recent fireworks show.