Special Initiatives & Emergency Response

IKEA co-workers are special guests at UN Refugee Agency ceremony

Last night five co-workers from Sweden got the reward of a lifetime for their tremendous efforts during the Brighter Lives for Refugees campaign: the chance to be special guests at the UN Refugee Agency’s annual Nansen Award ceremony in Geneva.

The IKEA HaparandaTornio store in Sweden was the best-performing store* during the campaign. It’s the northernmost IKEA store in the world, located on the Finnish border in a city that enjoys less than two hours of sunlight a day in February—a perfect time to sell light bulbs!

Not only will the five co-workers get to meet the award laureate and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, but they will also see how the partnership is saving the lives of some of the world’s most vulnerable people.

An award for helping refugees

August 18, 2014. Mery Medina with Yadira Rodriguez Caicedo (16), assisting her about her health and assistant programs available to her at the hospital “Luis Ablanque de la Plata’ in the Neighborhood of Lleras in Buenaventura, Colombia.
Mery Medina (50); at high risk of displacement-Single mother to her son-Coordinates a group of 30 women whose husbands/sons have been assassinated or have disappeared-Helps to improve their financial position by offering cooking & sewing workshops-Helps SGBV survivors to speak and express their emotions-Didn’t have money to study, but her dream was always to become a social worker.
Butterflies of New Wings is a network comprised of about 120 core volunteers. Each woman is tasked with recruiting five new women so that their reach will become wider. The group is described as a “ protection network of women helping women within the armed conflict.” Part of their strategy is to stay below the radar of the armed groups – of which there are many- in Buenaventura.
Paramilitary groups have controlled Buenaventura, Valle del Cauca department, since 2006. The Urabeños and the Empresa are the main groups operating in the port city. However, since 2009 Cauca has had the largest number of armed actions in Colombia. They restrict residents’ movement – attacking people if they step foot into the wrong street (crossing the invisible yet strict borders).
Photo Credit: Juan Arredondo for UNHCR.

Every year, UNHCR gives the Nansen award to an individual, group or organisation helping refugees, displaced or stateless people. This year the award goes to a brave group of Colombian women called Butterflies, who risk their lives to help other women survive horrific violence.

Conflict has displaced five million people in Colombia, and women are often caught in the middle—tortured, raped and killed as a demonstration of one group’s strength or in revenge against other militias. Butterflies provide one-on one-support for victims of abuse, educate women about their rights, and put pressure on the authorities to protect women.

Five honoured co-workers

IKEA co-workers Heidi Rönnebro (Lightning Department Shopkeeper), Kamilla Palovaara and Emma Slunga (both Sales co-workers in Lightning), Kati Luukko (Logistics co-worker) and Helena Spets (Sustainability Coordinator and Shopping Experience Manager).

The five co-workers going to Geneva are Heidi Rönnebro (Lightning Department Shopkeeper), Kamilla Palovaara and Emma Slunga (both Sales co-workers in Lightning), Kati Luukko (Logistics co-worker) and Helena Spets (Sustainability Coordinator and Shopping Experience Manager).

The Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees, T. Alexander Aleinikoff, greeted them with these words: “I would like to specially thank you, and through you all of the co-workers at IKEA HaparandaTornio, for your exceptional contribution to the Brighter Lives for Refugees campaign. Please share your experience widely with your fellow co-workers, friends and families.”

The co-workers will be sharing their stories and photos on the IKEA Foundation’s blog—make sure you follow their journey!

*Highest increase in number of LEDARE sold per customer during the campaign compared to the store’s baseline (LEDARE sales in January 2014).