Once in Beijing, the following morning we had the opportunity to meet Dale Rustein, Communication and Institutional Relations manager for UNICEF in China. Very kindly he answered all our questions and presented what UNICEF is doing now and what the plans are to continue with this project in the futuret.
After the economical changes during the 80s in China, childhood education which was supported in the whole country dropped down quickly. In 2006, when UNICEF China started the ECD (early childhood development) project, lots of things have changed to the better.
In 2006 only 29% of the children in this age received education. Now 66% have the possibility in Songpan county. For those children who due to the distances have difficulties to go to school, they have built some community centres where they organise activities to support them. There children and parents learn how to play together and get to know other families.
But there is still a long way to go. The equipments in many cases is not suitable, they need to continue working in some sanitation areas, tap water and electricity. Also they find it difficult to find enough teachers who are trained and have the capacity to speak the different dialects. The hard living conditions in this areas makes it more difficult, creating a high turnover in teaching staff.
The ambition is to have one school in every village and be able to train teachers who can later train the trainers for new teachers starting.
Nowadays UNICEF’s mission in China is more important than ever. Their programs reach every province with special attention to women and children in the most remote areas.
UNICEF is one of the few international organisations with influence in governments regarding children development. That’s why they have such an important role to support China with the most difficult areas: gender equity, HIV and migration for example.
Even if the Chinese economy is growing, the majority of the population is living in remote rural areas facing very difficult conditions. These are the areas where problems with capacity, infrastructures, the distances and the lack of resources make it very difficult to reach social development.
Later Dale told us about all these things and answered all our many questions. The end of our journey to China arrived. It was the end of the trip but the beginning of our real mission: to be your eyes and tell you all what we have lived and seen.
The sustainability ambassadors from IKEA Spain, took off on the 22nd of April destination Songpan County (Sichuan, China). We carried our bags full of “imaginary images” and expectations that were totally exceeded when we opened our eyes in Songpan.
The common wish of all the team was to see, discover and learn about everything that IKEA Foundation together with UNICEF is doing in terms of childhood education. We didn’t want to miss any moment: the games with the children, the words of the parents, all the images and habits of this millennia culture.
For sure, this experience has taught us that every smile of those children is worth the effort to support the Soft Toys for Education campaign as much as possible.
We would like to dedicate our last words to our friends in China because they have taught us so many important things: “Is not richer the one who has more, but the one who need less”. We will never forget this experience. It has been and it will be one of the best one in our lives.
We would also like to say thank you to IKEA for giving us this opportunity. We are sure it will make us grow and become better people! And of course to all of you who have followed us on the blog and are leaving so many nice messages in the intranet. Warm greetings to all the ones who are part of this big family!