This trip is the first time I have stepped out of my comfort zone – I knew I would be meeting children living in conditions that are not what I am accustomed to. Even my family is afraid that I might not be able to contribute much as I am not too good in communicating with kids.
But once the plane took off, everything became a reality. A 14-hour flight took me from Hong Kong to Istanbul, and then from Istanbul to Bucharest, the capital of Romania. Armed with nothing more than courage, I arrived with six co-workers from the different teams of IKEA Hong Kong, the representative from Save the Children Hong Kong, and of course, we brought along our soft toys as well.
Save the Children, in partnership with the IKEA Foundation, carries out a three-year project in Romania to support the most vulnerable children in the face of stigma and discrimination – Roma children, children with mental health disorders, children with psycho-emotional distress or behavioural disorders – to combat these phenomena in society.
It’s great that we can be here. There’s no better way to understand the project than first-hand experience.
We were very grateful that Cristina from Save the Children Romania came to pick us up. We couldn’t wait to start the tour. From the moment we walked into the headquarters of Save the Children Romania, we were welcomed with warm and generous hospitality by Ms. Gabriela Alexandrescu, CEO of Save the Children Romania, and her team. They kept thanking us, which made me feel embarrassed as I did not put as much effort in as many of our co-workers who work hard to sell the soft toys. And yet I still received VIP hospitality and gratitude.
They explained the scope of services provided by Save the Children Romania. We visited their office and got to understand their work better – for example, how they deal with the government regarding children’s education policy and how to fight for the well-being of the children. In addition, the communication materials they produced were overwhelming in explaining discrimination, child labour, neglect, child psychology and other issues. All these helped us to comprehend better the contributions from Save the Children Romania in protecting children. We now know that there are issues more frightening than poverty.
At night, we met up the team of four co-workers from IKEA Switzerland and the representatives of Save the Children for dinner. We were so excited and forgot the exhaustion after the long day.
Before going to bed, I said a prayer. I prayed that the visit the next day would go smoothly. I look forward to meeting the children as I’ve never met them before. I also wished that there will be a better tomorrow for them.