“Why can’t you stay with me to celebrate my birthday this year?”
James, my 14 year old boy asked me with his curious and upsetting eyes, while I told him that I will be on a “business trip” to Indonesia during his birthday. Sometimes, my child’s questions are more challenging than the one from any journalist for me to answer.
“I’d better have a good reason” I said to myself…
Through an exciting internal “competition”, eight ambassadors were chosen by our last year’s ambassadors who joined the IWitness trip to Yunan China in 2012. This year we are a team with different working experiences from Store, Warehouse, Service Office in Taiwan and Indonesia. It’s a nice warm-up that we met our ambassadors from IKEA Indonesia one day prior to our trip. We found out more similarities than differences in our culture and activities in life at home.
Accompanied by the experienced and passionate social workers from Save the Children Indonesia, we will be gaining a better understanding towards the needs and resources for Children with physical/mental Disabilities in Bandung city and district.
By taking a mini coach, we visited elementary schools to see how children with physical/mental disabilities in regular classes learn to get along with other classmates. We also joined a family forum to empathize the happiness and worries from those parents of children with physical/mental disabilities. We saw how substantially positive progress of Community Based Rehabilitation has been helping families to change their attitude during the past couple years. Practice therapy as well as parenting skills to were further developed to fulfil the needs of children with physical/mental disabilities. We recognized the important role that the IKEA Foundation plays to make all those things possible and happened.
By taking a horse-carriage to pass through narrow hill lanes (it’s really an up-and-down experience!), we reached those families with children who are mentally or physically challenged. They shared with us what economic challenges they face and worry about the first thing when they wake up in every morning but on the other hand, we admired their optimism towards life and the strong love for their children trying to improve their living.
During the family visit today we also met Shela. A shy and beautiful 16-yr-old girl. Due to Cerebral Palsy and bird flu she is now physical challenged so she cannot walk too far away from home. Only one private school is within reachable distance, taking her parents’ motorcycle. In addition to challenge of being able to afford one complete uniform, she is reluctant to go to school although she told us she would likes to. Some of her classmates make fun of her physical disabilities. Discussion with social worker from Save the Children help Shela to better deal with her physical disability and build up her self-confidence again. This is only one of many examples where we see the funding from the IKEA Foundation making a big difference to children. But this cannot be a quick fix. It takes time. I am glad to witness that we can be a part of supporting Shela’s young life by working out sustainable ways with her parents and partners from Save the Children Indonesia.
“Why can’t you stay with me to celebrate my birthday this year?” while my son asked before my IWitness trip, I know this is the “Q&A moment” that I’ve rehearsed for several times.
“It’s more than ‘just a business trip’, James.” I tried to elaborate further about the importance of the IWitness program which completes the Soft Toy for Education campaign.
“Is that the 1-EUR / Dollar children activity we joined for years?” He interrupted into my long-prepared story.
“A-ha, now you recall why you have so many soft toys around your bed?” I saw smile on his face. “Do you literally understand why on your birthday I cannot be with you but with those children who are mentally or physically challenged?”
“Of course! I am a grown-up, my dear daddy!”
On his birthday, the second day on our IWitness trip, I wished him a very happy birthday through an online video app. “Are children over there as happy as I am?” He asked.
At that moment I realized, “Sharing Is Caring” is probably the most precious birthday gift that he just received.