The power of working together

A note from the winter in the Netherlands.

1, 2, 3, BEST – we did it! The Soft Toys for Education campaign was a success! A big thanks to all of the customers and IKEA co-workers who contributed to a great increase in our sales of soft toys during the campaign. In the Netherlands we reached almost EUR 300,000  in sales, which will be donated to Save the Children and UNICEF!

We hope that the contributions will bring a lot of good improvements to children’s lives and schools in Rwanda and other parts of the world.

It is now four months since we returned from our IWitness trip to Rwanda, but it still feels very recent. What an incredible experience we had! The people and the projects we visited left a large impression in our minds and hearts: the happy children who were so eager to learn, the creative teachers and the dedicated UNICEF team.

We were a group of nine from the Netherlands visiting UNICEF’s Schools for Africa projects in Rwanda. We learned about the fantastic developments and steps that were already taken, and we could also see what challenges still remain.

Before we went, we did not know what to expect, considering the fact that Rwanda suffered brutally during the 1994 genocide, when nearly 20% of the population was killed. The majority of children witnessed family members being abused or killed, and too many children were themselves abused.

However, we were astonished to learn that the country has already achieved great results. Today Rwanda is one of a few African countries on track to meet the Millennium Development Goals. The majority of children are enrolled in schools, and they have the highest proportion of female representation in politics in the world.

I think that one of the greatest success factors of this fast development is the power of working together. The power of working cross-sector and using the diversity and the strengths from each party.

The IKEA Foundation is partnering with NGOs such as Save the Children and UN organisations including UNICEF. The Foundation and IKEA have worked for many years on the Soft Toys for Education campaign and recently launched the Brighter Lives for Refugees campaign to benefit the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

Again, this is the power of working together, using the experience, knowledge and capacity of those organisations together with IKEA’s 135,000 engaged co-workers to make a big difference for people in challenging areas and situations. I feel very confident and proud of the success and future possibilities of such initiatives. In IKEA we can—together with our co-workers, our visitors and partners—reach amazing results!

Last year we recruited a group of social ambassadors to create awareness and engagement about sustainability in and around our stores. The international engagement is crucial, but we also see a need in our own country. Almost 400,000 children live below the poverty level in the Netherlands. We want to positively involve these children and contribute to their development. This year we will launch a national social project, engaging with local communities and inspiring children around the stores to believe in themselves and that they can do great things with small means!

We will continue with our social engagement, both internationally through our IKEA Foundation and our partners and locally here in the Netherlands. Soon we will take the next group to another Soft Toys for Education destination.

You are more than welcome to follow us then too!

Lisen and the social ambassador team

    Lisen Wiren