BEHIND THE SCENES: Carolina Westin, Save the Children

I’m Carolina and have worked as IWitness Coordinator at Save the Children Sweden for almost 2,5 years. During this time I have coordinated IWitness trips to Save the Children’s Inclusive Education Programmes in Romania, Kosovo, Indonesia, China, Myanmar, Vietnam, the Philippines and Cambodia.

My job, together with many colleagues and the IKEA Foundation, is to try and create the best possible IWitness experience for the lucky co-workers who get selected to go on a trip. To do that I need to make sure that everyone feels as involved and informed as possible. It’s important that the IKEA co-workers knows what programme they will be visiting and what to expect when arriving in a country many of them never visited before. It’s equally as important that the hosting countries knows the essence of IWitness so they make an engaging agenda that focuses on meeting children and take part in activities.

The ultimate goal is that the co-workers get a real sense of the difference the programmes they help fund makes, and that my colleagues and Save the Children’s partner organisations get to show and explain the amazing and important work they do. If we achieve that, we reach the goal of creating global citizens and build bridges between people from completely different countries and backgrounds.

A successful IWitness visit needs good preparations. Save the Children hosts at least one but often two pre-trip briefings with the IKEA co-workers. We also make sure the co-workers have a focal point at their national Save the Children office. This person will also accompany them on the trip. We also, when possible, include Save the Children staff in the hosting country in the briefings. This is a chance for everybody to get a little acquainted before meeting in country as well as to get a deeper insight in the activities they will take part in during the visit.

We try to make the itineraries as interactive as possible and rather than the participants feeling as if they have watched kids, we’d like everyone to feel that they have met the children. One rule is above all rules, and that is to make sure every child participating in the IWitness visit is safe. Therefore we make sure all co-workers is informed about Save the Children’s Child Safeguarding Policy both before leaving on the trip and once they arrived to the hosting country.

For some people, the IWitness visit can be quite an emotional journey. Save the Children work in some of the world’s poorest countries reaching some of the most deprived children. Our programmes meet an actual need in all countries and we can’t pretend otherwise. But by showing what change the programmes make in children’s lives, our aim is that all IWitness visitors return home with a sense of hope and believe that it truly is possible to make the world a better place.

So every IWitness trip begins and ends with briefings. There are no stupid questions, there are no “wrong” feelings. With this we hope to create a better understanding of what Save the Children do and how IKEA and the IKEA Foundation contributes to us having the possibilities to keep carrying out our work.