by Luca Bortolani & Michelle Stirnimann
As you’ll know from our latest blog posts, seven co-workers from IKEA Switzerland and IKEA Dubai are in Malawi at the moment visiting some of the UNICEF programmes our in-store campaigns support. The ‘warm heart of Africa’, as people call Malawi, ranks among the poorest countries in the world. Half of the fast-growing population is under 18. Droughts, floods, health issues such as HIV, and land-grabbing by foreigners are just some of the issues the country faces. Yet the country is peaceful and the people our seven co-workers meet are very friendly. Here’s the latest from Kay from IKEA Switzerland.
“UNICEF cars drive us safely from our hotel to some of their development aid projects. The roads are busy with people selling food, walking to work and school, or just standing there talking and laughing. In the fields, small scale farmers prepare their land for the upcoming rainy season—it hasn’t rained since February. From October to February, heavy rains will flood the country. Last year’s floods killed more than 200 people and over 200,000 people lost their homes. The water destroyed harvests and livestock in a large part of the country. The forests that could have protected people have been widely deforested, as charcoal is the main source of energy for cooking, making bricks for houses and heating (yes, it can get cold here too).
Where do you start supporting a country in which large numbers of people don’t have enough food to eat, have no access to clean water or medical treatment, where HIV and malaria are just two of many health issues, and where the population is set to triple by 2050? The IKEA Foundation and UNICEF decided to start with the children. Healthy, educated children are considered to be the backbone of a prospering society of tomorrow.
In Malawi, the Foundation supports UNICEF in giving access to early learning and improving the quality of primary education with child-friendly schools. With the help of the Foundation and other donors UNICEF has, for example, built a teacher’s college and improved elementary schools and kindergartens in order to implement the child-friendly concept.
UNICEF runs a number of programmes to give young adults and children access to education. The community-based ‘mothers’ groups’ are one example how people are working together in order to bring girls back to school, who have dropped out. We were able to talk to some of those girls: some have lost a parent, some became pregnant, while others were too poor to stay at school. UNICEF offers literacy courses to young adults, where they learn basic reading and writing skills. With the IKEA Foundation’s support, UNICEF educates teachers and helps them improve their teaching skills. It is not an easy task to handle a classroom of up to 90 pupils!
Our seven co-workers are overwhelmed and deeply impressed by the work of UNICEF Malawi and grateful to see how our united support from customer and company can help a child growing up in one of the world’s poorest countries. And we would hereby like to share with you some of our impressions and memories from this trip.”
Footnote: The Soft Toys for Education campaign took place in November and December every year for the last 13 years. During this time, the IKEA Foundation donated €1 for every soft toy sold in its stores. More than 12 million children in Africa, Asia and Europe have better schools, teachers and learning materials, thanks to a successful partnership between the IKEA Foundation, Save the Children and UNICEF.