It’s not only a training programme but also a playground

The IKEA Foundation took me to India, which is a mysterious, friendly and warm country. Special Olympics showed me how it is to have a playground for children who have different abilities.

Children who have an intellectual disability having fun during an activity. Children just need a high five to encourage them to move forward. Photo by Pei Lu.

The first day when we saw the children with intellectual disabilities in an inclusive school, we were melted by their sweet smiles, since they were so open-minded to play with us. Once the music started, and they moved their bodies with unco-ordinated limbs, we found out how difficult it is for them to finish an activity such as climbing under the hula hoop. At that time, I realised how important encouragement is to them. Therefore, I just waited there when they passed the hula hoop and gave them a high five. I still remembered when a child tried so hard to pass the hula hoop, tears almost came out from my eyes. It is such an easy thing for us to do this activity but they had to spend twice as much time as us. And they just need a high five to make them feel happy. How hard it is to finish an activity for them but how easy it is to make them happy.

A community centre which offers health checks for children and women and also provides a space for the Young Athletes training programme. Photo by Kate Chen.

On the second day, we visited a community centre which offers space for Special Olympics training for the children in the village. This is a village that has limited conditions, so women come here for regular health checks and also make some handmade things to earn a living. Compared to the school we visited on first day, this place has limited conditions such as no air conditioner and fewer tables and chairs.

After we played with children, there was a little girl walking unsteadily and slowly towards me. She held my hands and led me inside the community centre. And all the women came to us and talked about what kind of help they need. They were talking about Indian women who need to earn money, do household chores and take care of children. And what these women need is enough food and tables and also chairs. They can do more work with more tables, and they also need to teach their children table manners. This makes me shocked about how tough Indian women are. And even though their life is difficult, they still hope their children can be well-educated with knowledge and also etiquette.

The boy gave me a cup of sparkling water and I just started to play with him. He was shy, with a beautiful smile, so that I almost forgot he had an intellectual disability. Photo by Pei Lu.

The last place we visited was the home of a local Indian family. There are five people in this family. The father and the youngest son have an intellectual disability. And the mother, who has a physical disability, is responsible for earning money, cooking, household chores and many other things. Luckily, the boy has a brother and a sister who have everything healthy.

When I entered their house, I felt upset about the poor environment, which had a very tiny space, little light, and was without even a bed in the house. Even though we felt shocked and upset about their living situation, we didn’t show this, so that they wouldn’t feel disrespect. I will never forget that they treated us with their smiles and hospitality, even though they have less resources than us.

During this five-day trip, I felt lucky and honoured to work for IKEA. I made a commitment to share with all my colleagues about IWitness. The place we work at gives a lot back to the world. There are many children who get a wonderful playground for their childhood. I am glad to be part of this big family and hope to continue to share more with the world.


    Abby Lin