Sister Angélique – an incredibly courageous woman

Last night our partner UNHCR gave the 2013 Nansen Refugee Award to an incredibly courageous woman – and some of our IKEA co-workers were in the audience to meet her!

Sister Angélique has helped transform the lives of more than 2,000 Congolese women and girls who were forced from their homes or abducted during the conflict. She helps women who suffered horrific abuse, and Sister Angélique’s care means so much to them that many call her “mother”.

Our congratulations and thank-you go to Sister Angélique. Individuals like her truly make the world a better place!

How did our IKEA co-workers feel about this event?

Ana Teresa da Costa Fernandes: “Picking up the pieces of your life”

Ana Teresa da Costa Fernandes, Communication and Sustainability in IKEA in Portugal
Ana Teresa da Costa Fernandes, Communication and Sustainability at IKEA Portugal

As an IKEA co-worker, today I had one of my best days ever in ten years in the company. In Geneva, while waiting for the Nansen Refugee Award ceremony, we spent the day with the UNHCR team, travelling the world through their eyes and experiences. From Ethiopia to Bangladesh, from Sudan to the Democratic Republic of Congo, we learned what it means to be a refugee living in a refugee camp. Being a refugee means that you don’t belong anywhere anymore.

Sister Angélique Namaika doesn’t agree with this. Oh no! She is there in front of me and her smile is so wide and pure that I get the message. In Dungu she rides her bicycle as if the world is a promenade. She smiles back at everybody. Her smile is the size of the world, her world, the world she created in her small village where she shelters girls and women who were abused and raped by the LRA (Lord’s Resistance Army).

Sister Angélique has beautiful and curious eyes that see way ahead of her small village in the heart of Africa. She has no fear, and she puts that in words while helping girls and young women believe again. She teaches them letters and numbers, love and hope. She teaches them how to sew and how to cook. She teaches them it is okay to smile again. They dance together and they heal. Together. Theirs is a work of love.

The girls call her Mother. One girl, very shy but smiling, says: “I don’t have a mother any more, but I have Sister Angélique now, and she is my mother. She is teaching me to pick up the pieces of my life.”

I look at Sister Angélique, right by my side at the ceremony, and I dare to hold her hands in mine and just say: “Thank you.”

iWitnesses at the 2013 Nansen Refugee Award
iWitnesses at the 2013 Nansen Refugee Award

Irena Dobosz: “Regaining dignity”

Irena Dobosz - Sustainability & Customer Relations Manager in IKEA Retail South East Europe (Croatia, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia)
Irena Dobosz – Sustainability & Customer Relations Manager in IKEA Retail South East Europe (Croatia, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia)

“Helping even one women is already a success,” says Sister Angélique Nako Namaika, laureate of the 2013 Nansen Refugee Award.

And she is helping many women and girls in the north-east Democratic Republic of the Congo who have experienced the worst evils when being displaced from their homes.

For years, she has helped them regain dignity and re-start a normal life again. She says she will never give up helping people. Amazing power of love. Amazing power of ONE woman.

And there are more people like her! Today we met some of them from UNHCR who are doing an amazing job helping refugees wherever there is a need.

I was also reflecting today on IKEA and our partnership with UNHCR.

IKEA aims to be a leader in life at home…but refugees have no home.
IKEA aims to grow and sell…but refugees will not buy.
IKEA aims to contribute to a better everyday life for the many people. Yes, refugees are many people; 45 million people worldwide are displaced.
They need light; they need hope. Together with UHNCR we can help.

I am proud of IKEA that we do it and help many people to regain feeling of home. If not us – who would?

Nina Schefte: “Humble and grateful…”

Nina Schefte, Sustainability Manager for IKEA Norway
Nina Schefte, Sustainability Manager for IKEA Norway

I feel humbled and grateful to have had the chance to meet a person like Sister Angélique.

Sister Angélique gives hope and a future to girls and women who have had experiences worse than any of us can imagine. Still, she never gives up. Her incredible courage and strong willingness to help others gives us hope for the future, and it is truly motivating.

Sister Angélique has helped more than 2,000 girls and women only with her own resources: her two hands, a bike and a big heart. When that is possible, imagine what all of us can achieve if we work together for the over 43 million displaced people around the world!

Cecilia Hegnelius: “A day filled with inspiration”

Cecilia Hegnelius, Range Manager
Cecilia Hegnelius, Range Communicator

This has been a  fantastic day! I learnt a lot about the important work UNHCR is doing worldwide. It was a true privilege to meet sister Angélique, who is a very special woman. Tonight she really touched the audience with her humble attitude and big smile. She has proved that nothing is impossible and that you can create wonders with very small means.

I’m feeling proud to work for a company that has social responsibility high on the agenda and that can make such a huge difference for many people in need. For me this event was a great inspiration.

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Read tomorrow’s blog by Natalia, Mirjana, Fredrik, Lorenz and Jan Christian to learn more about how UNHCR helps refugees around the world.

Juli Riegler