Hello, Romania, it’s very nice to meet you!
Togetherness and enthusiasm—these words mean a lot to us, and you will find them written on the walls of every IKEA store. Only together we can make a change, and that is why our group is going to Romania—to see the results of a global effort, led by the IKEA Foundation, to help Roma children and children with mental health problems live happier lives full of opportunity.
There are eight of us IKEA co-workers, strangers to each other, from Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore, and we are about to embark on this great journey, not really knowing what to expect.
For me, this is a very personal experience. Growing up in a place with a large Roma community, I saw first-hand how damaging prejudice and exclusion can be. There was even a saying that parents used to scare their children if they misbehaved: “Be good or the gypsies will take you!” From an early age we were taught that “gypsies”, a derogatory term for Roma, are inherently bad and should be feared and kept away from. The problem is that this has been going on for centuries, all over Europe!
Only a small percentage of Roma children go to school and even fewer get a degree and a decent job…I know only one person who actually did. The Roma people have a great, rich culture, and Roma children deserve as much of an opportunity as any of us may have had.
The same goes for the children with mental health problems, who are too often segregated from society instead of helped to become a vital part of it and given a chance to make their parents proud! I am so glad and grateful that the IKEA Foundation is helping them achieve all that they can and helping those kids get an education and proper support.
We will visit these children of Romania and get to know and understand the issues they are facing in order to be fully accepted by the communities they live in. Our group will get to see kindergartens, schools and support groups and learn as much as possible so that we are able to tell the story of those brave children, fighting against the odds, to our co-workers and friends. We hope to inspire them to do even more for the Save the Children programme next year. What we do in our stores really does matter, and we want all our co-workers to feel proud!
Luckily, you don’t need to wait for us to come back—follow our journey daily through our blog, and tell others about it! Thank you for joining us because we really can make a difference…together!