We started the day (16 November 2016 @ 10:55am) by meeting our counterparts from UNICEF:
- Ms Natha Somjaivong (Corporate Fundraising Officer—UNICEF Thailand)
- Ms Anna Crago (Fundraising Specialist (Major Donor)—UNICEF PFP Geneva)
- Ms Zhao Qi (Education Officer—UNICEF China)
- Heather Yang (Corporate Partnership Specialist—UNICEF China)
We met at Beijing Airport, en route to Changsha Airport, for the trip briefing on our stint at Xiangtan County. We learned more about what the IKEA Foundation programme has done and how it has benefited the many children of Xiangtan County, Hunan, China.
Upon arrival at Changjiang Hotel, we started the briefing in the meeting room with the board of directors from the Women’s Federation, representatives from the governor’s office and UNICEF officials. The briefing was about how the partnership of UNICEF and the IKEA Foundation, which started in 2013 on an Early Childhood Development (ECD) project in 10 villages, has changed the lives of children, parents and caregivers in Xiangtan County, Hunan, China. Throughout the four years of running the programme, there a few interesting findings that have been shared today:
- More children attend this ECD programme because it is fun for both the children and parents.
- When the programme and ECD centre just started in the villages, the grandparents were the ones who brought their grandchildren to the centres. Recent findings have indicated that more than 60% of those bringing their children are parents themselves, instead of the grandparents, which shows parents arespending more time bonding with their children.
- There is also an increase in fathers bringing their children to the ECD centre
- The benefits of ECD centres have created a great awareness among nearby villages that do not have any ECD centre / facilities. They have contacted UNICEF to set up an ECD centre in their village. These villages would walk to other villages nearby, which have such facilities, to attend the programme.
- From when the programme started till now, the programme has benefited 1,970 children in Hunan Province.
In conclusion, we felt that the partners are serious about the programme and the outreach effort they have made to those who need the most support. We were touched by their sincerity, seriousness and dedication in making a better life for the many children. They also emphasised the efforts made in training and upgrading more volunteers to sustain the programme so that it would continue to thrive for many years to come.