IKEA and UNICEF in the warm heart of Africa

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.

20 September 2016. Kay from IKEA Dubai and Luca, Sandra, Natalie, Michelle, Annetta and Norbin from IKEA Switzerland were invited by UNICEF Malawi to visit a number of programmes run by UNICEF to improve access to and the quality of children’s education. Photo by Elizabeth Karagiannis
20 September 2016. Kay from IKEA Dubai and Luca, Sandra, Natalie, Michelle, Annetta and Norbin from IKEA Switzerland were invited by UNICEF Malawi to visit a number of programmes run by UNICEF to improve access to and the quality of children’s education. Photo by Elizabeth Karagiannis
20 September 2016. Kids at the Tadala childcare centre near Blantyre, Malawi, eat porridge for lunch. For many kids, it is the only meal of the day—one of the reasons why parents send their kids to school. Photo by Kay Sousa
20 September 2016. Kids at the Tadala childcare centre near Blantyre, Malawi, eat porridge for lunch. For many kids, it is the only meal of the day—one of the reasons why parents send their kids to school. Photo by Kay Sousa
Pic 3, taken by Luca, September 20, 2016. Over half of Malawis population are under 18. Many children need to support their family and miss school.
September 20, 2016. Over half of Malawis population are under 18. Many children need to support their family and miss school. Taken by Luca.
September 20, 2016. UNICEF supports early learning with school infrastructure, a playground and teacher's education. Taken by Michelle.
September 20, 2016. UNICEF supports early learning with school infrastructure, a playground and teacher’s education. Taken by Michelle.
September 20, 2016. Young adults that dropped out of elementary school - often because of pregnancy or poverty - get a second chance with a nine-month literacy course supported by UNICEF. Taken by Natalie
September 20, 2016. Young adults that dropped out of elementary school – often because of pregnancy or poverty – get a second chance with a nine-month literacy course supported by UNICEF. Taken by Natalie
September 20, 2016. At the Chiradzulu Teacher's College, built with the support of UNICEF, prospective teachers learn how to use a computer - for most student teachers it is the very first time using a computer. By Norbin
September 20, 2016. At the Chiradzulu Teacher’s College, built with the support of UNICEF, prospective teachers learn how to use a computer – for most student teachers it is the very first time using a computer. By Norbin
September 21, 2016. Children of the Malindi II elementary school are excited over the arrival of the UNICEF and IKEA visitors. The child friendly school concept includes smaller classes, gender segregated toilets and playgrounds. By Sandra
September 21, 2016. Children of the Malindi II elementary school are excited over the arrival of the UNICEF and IKEA visitors. The child friendly school concept includes smaller classes, gender segregated toilets and playgrounds. By Sandra
September 21, 2016. UNICEF Switzerland representatives Elizabeth and Tanja pump water to the surface, under the close supervision of scholars of the Malindi II elementary school. By Annetta
September 21, 2016. UNICEF Switzerland representatives Elizabeth and Tanja pump water to the surface, under the close supervision of scholars of the Malindi II elementary school. By Annetta
English
    Luca Bortolani
    Luca Bortolani