I am So proud of our partner UNICEF and in this case especially their team in China. They managed to scale up projects focused on Early Childhood Development & Education (ECD/ECE) funded for €10 million, to an investment of €7,8 billion by the government, in Early Childhood Development & Education.
I would like to give you a quick snapshot on our amazing experiences in China. Together IKEA Spain I was lucky to see how our efforts to make the Soft Toys for Education campaign, that runs in IKEA stores from November and December, contribute to amazing projects like these.
The first kinder garden we visited was with children from 3-6 years of age. The children were all happy, dancing and also exercising. Some of them really concentrated, while others got a bit distracted by us. It was just so good to see these young ones dancing, singing and receiving the attention and care, they so deserve.
After they finished their exercises they went into their classrooms and started to create little pieces of art. Most of the artwork the children made, came from materials they had used for themselves and hereby recycled them. They used the bottom of plastic bottles to dip in paint and create flowers, they coloured stones and created beautiful paintings on them.
While they were crafting I got the chance to speak to a teacher. She was really happy to get the chance to teach these children and mainly because the children are always happy, they cannot stop laughing and always have smile on their face when they are in the garden. That is also what we experienced, there were some kids, who really had the most fun in the world when we were in their class, they just couldn’t stop giggling, it was so contagious. After they were done with their art they ran to us and gave it to us, not knowing we would carry them and their artwork in our hearts forever. It was wonderful to see how much fun they had.
After we visited the Tibetan kinder garden, we went to visit a kinder garden which facilitated overnight stays during week days for the kids. Parents in China really believe in the pre-school training and are committed to send their children to kinder gardens. The children usually stay there because the parents live too far away to bring their children every day. So they are willing to miss their children during the week in order to fulfil their dream; that the children will be able, one day to finish college. Even though it was so nice to see the children were given the opportunity to stay overnight there, it was still clear that they need more facilities, like indoor toilets.
From little facilities to even less; we went to an area where they don’t have a kinder garden but just a room. The local teachers organize activities/workshops once every couple of months, depending on whether the parents are at home or whether they go into the mountains with their kids to search for herbs. The teachers have their normal class in primary school but also do their best to provide extra services to the younger children and their parents.
We walked 20 minutes in the mountains and experienced what “hard to reach areas” really mean. The home we visited was 20 minutes away, but the road was full of sand and stones and we could easily imagine how slippery and dangerous it would be after rainy or snowy weather.
After a debriefing in Songpan County we went back to Beijing. Here we got another debriefing from UNICEF China, where Dale, Chief of Communications showed us, how with the funding through the Soft Toys Campaign, UNICEF China was able to gain evidence of the positive impact the ECD projects have. By gathering evidence, they made their case to the government and managed to convince the government to invest 7,8 billion in the pre-school education for our most important people in the world: our children.