“Did we mention that you’re going to have an IWitness trip? No? Well, you’re going to have an IWitness trip. Be prepared to go to Africa!”
My throat became a little dry. Did the HR manager just tell me that I was going to travel to Africa for IKEA? I looked at her. She started to laugh. “Yes Kimm, I’m not kidding. We’re picking you to be our Social Ambassador and that means that you get the chance to see the good work of UNICEF in the field.”
When they asked me a few minutes before that moment whether I’d liked to travel, I thought I was going to travel to Amsterdam. Or Heerlen, maybe Dortmund, or Sweden… But Africa? It took a while before I calmed down and started to enjoy the fact that I was going to get the chance of a lifetime. And now, when I can almost hear the sounds of Africa, I can’t wait!
A couple of my Dutch colleagues went in September 2013 to Rwanda. It took a little bit longer for the second group of Dutch Global Citizens to find out where the IWitness trip would take us to. About eight weeks ago, we got the long-expected message from “our” UNICEF guide, Carine Munting. We are going to Malawi!
Malawi is one of the poorest countries of the world. 60% of the people are living below the poverty line. Malnutrition is a major problem. The absence of mineral resources, the lack of a seaport, the few proceeds from the tea and tobacco plantations, the low level of education and HIV make the situation dramatic. With the donations of the IKEA Foundation, UNICEF works with different projects on an improvement of life in Malawi. Protecting vulnerable children and orphans is one of the cornerstones. Being a mother of two happy and healthy kids, I try to imagine what it must be like to raise your kids under these circumstances.
Because education is the key to a hopeful future, we will visit some projects of Schools for Africa. The Nelson Mandela Foundation, UNICEF and the Peter Kramer Foundation (former Hamburg Society) founded this initiative in 2004, and it promotes education in 13 different African countries. Both Malawi and Rwanda are in the programme.
In a few days, Roelanda Hulzenbosch (Amersfoort store), Marlies Davids (Barendrecht store), Anke Hermkens (Eindhoven store), Johan Klep (Breda store), Kristina Johansson (Netherlands Country Manager) and I can (and will!) tell you everything about Malawi, also known as “The warm heart of Africa”!