From Germany to Malawi

Hej, my name is Christina and I am very excited because our German IWitness team (Sabine, Laura, Belinda, Pam, Kai and me) is ready for take-off to Malawi.

During the yearly Soft Toys for Education campaign, the IKEA Foundation donates €1 for every soft toy sold to Save the Children and UNICEF. The IKEA Foundation’s IWitness programme invites small groups of IKEA co-workers to visit some of these projects and, lucky us, we are the group with this privileged chance!

It makes us very proud and excited at the same time to have an opportunity to see first-hand UNICEF’s Schools for Africa projects in Malawi. Now let us have a short introduction from the team:

Group pic new*Pamela Horneber works in Nuremberg/Furth, which was the best-selling soft toy store in Germany during last year’s campaign.

*Belinda Jarschel helps in Eching, near Munich, to make the store cosy and full of inspiration by building real-life living situations.

*Laura Klüsing, from Bremen, is a member of the Expansion team and works all over the country to establish and furnish new IKEA stores.

*Sabine Gabriel from IT is a Team Manager, always striving to find fast solutions for technical problems.

The four of them are supported by Kai Hartmann who is responsible for social partnerships and projects at IKEA Germany. He organised the trip, together with UNICEF.

I am part of the online and social media team which helps our text and pictures work well in the digital world.

Last, but not least, there is BRUMMA the soft toy bear who is travelling with us to see what has been already achieved with donations. He will be our co-traveller and friend during the whole trip.

It is one thing to know the facts about Malawi, our route and the programme itself, but it is very hard to imagine what it will be like to be there. So we asked each other a few questions about what motivations and expectations we have. Let’s share some of these first thoughts:

These are the thoughts Pam is sharing with us: “In Germany we have all the things we need. When we need some water, we turn on the tap. When we are hungry, we go to the fridge or to the supermarket. When something hurts, we go to the doctor next to us. And – of course – all the children go to school, and are sometimes highly motivated, sometimes less motivated. The trip to Malawi will show us another side in the world. There are so many things which are trivial for the people in Germany that they don´t think about it (e.g. running water) I´m curious about seeing how people handle their everyday lives.”

Sabine has also been very motivated since she applied for the programme: “Last year I was backpacking in south-east-Asia for almost six months and travelled through poor countries,” she says. “I have seen that people are still happy and, above all, very friendly and hospitable even if they don’t have much. Often I asked myself: What can I do, as an individual, to support people who are not doing so well? Back in Germany I quickly arrived in everyday life again and the question faded, to be honest. When I saw the IWitness programme posting, I knew at once that I could get things moving. Certainly not change the world, but I can see how support from each individual arrives on site and changes something in a country for many people. IKEA Foundation, in collaboration with UNICEF, has a great impact in different countries. There are people who are helping every day with donations and it is worth sharing it.”

Belinda tells us why she wanted to do this co-worker journey: “I want to move something, not only in my store. I am so curious about getting to know the people behind UNICEF: what are their thoughts during their work in such countries, and their motivations? It is my first time visiting an African country. I am interested in the look and feel, the culture and smells and getting to know the people, of course. What do they think about us? I am very interested in the way my daily work turns into a much bigger thing! It is great to work for a company not only focusing on the customers’ wishes, but on a better life for many people.”

Laura’s first thoughts about the trip to Malawi are full of images, curiosity and a positive mood: “Full of joy, I’m looking forward to the trip to Malawi and I wonder what will await me. I think I’ll gather a lot of new impressions and will be welcomed with much warmth. First of all, I picture a lot of schoolchildren as they sit in their classrooms and play in the schoolyard. Despite difficult living conditions and circumstances, I hope to see a lot of hope and confidence.

“I think we will experience a whole new and different kind of joy. Moreover, I think that we will encounter topics which at first seem simple to solve for us. But with time we will learn about certain backgrounds and processes and understand why the most obvious solution is not always the best. I think we will have very interesting conversations with different people and get to know many new things from the respective points of view. The days will be exhausting and exciting, and we will gain a lot of new experiences. I imagine we will come back with the will to make a change. After our return, our view of our daily lives will have changed and the basic things we are accustomed to will receive more appreciation.”

We can’t wait to start the trip and tell you more about what we’ll experience. Of course you will hear more from us soon, here at the blog and may be you’ll also have a glimpse in social media #IKEAmalawireise or our German webpage