The Kosovo connection


When IKEA Canada announced the opportunity to participate in a once-in-a-lifetime experience to see the great work being done by the IKEA Foundation and our partners like UNICEF and Save the Children, I immediately envisioned myself taking part in it and contributing to this great cause. After two years of applying to this program, I was privileged to be chosen and given this amazing opportunity. I am looking forward to being your eyes on the ground and connecting with you all through my blogs.

I feel strongly that as individuals we play a significant role in shaping the kinds of societies and environments we want to live in. We can only do so by being an integral part of this process on all levels in life: personal and work. This brings it full circle for me on a personal level because not only am I actively involved in my community, but I can now say that I can be that change factor at work as well. I can make the connection and raise awareness that as IKEA co-workers we are making a difference around the world through the Soft Toys for Education campaign by providing equal, quality education for children, and we all can be very proud of this.

I cannot express the excitement that is building within me surrounding this trip to Kosovo. When I first found out, I shared it with my immediate co-workers in the Accounting Department and eventually the communication was shared throughout Canada. All the positive feedback, encouragement and congratulatory expressions has energized me even more, and I accept the responsibility of being their eyes and ears in Kosovo.

About Rocio Reyes

I started my IKEA journey over 13 years ago and am currently an accountant in the Canadian Service Office. Born in El Salvador, I am proud to call Canada my home. I volunteer with an organization called Asociación Fraternidad Hispana, which provides social, cultural, educational, and sports programs for our community. Now that I have the opportunity to represent Canada as one of the IWitness ambassadors, I can add this to my ongoing journey, accept humbly the responsibilities it entails and look forward to sharing with the world.

What makes it all possible


Anton Nyman works for UNICEF Sweden, and he recently returned from an IWitness trip to Sierra Leone. Here he explains why the IKEA Foundation’s funding is so important for UNICEF’s work, and he thanks IKEA co-workers for helping UNICEF improve children’s education in Sierra Leone.

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Over the last couple of days, I have had the privilege of visiting Sierra Leone with five IKEA co-workers. The purpose of the visit is to see and learn more about the programmes that the IKEA Foundation supports in Sierra Leone, one of the poorest countries in the world.

Here we have met teachers, children and community leaders, and we have seen and experienced a lot. And from my experience, I can truly say that the money donated to UNICEF’s programmes on child-centered teacher training and emerging issues is making a massive impact and gives more children access to a good education. But that does not surprise me at all. Actually, that it is something that, as a UNICEF employee, I expect to see on a visit like this. It is our job and mission to support vulnerable children and to make sure that their rights are listened to and acted upon. There is still very much to be achieved in the work for children in Sierra Leone, but the work done is really pushing in the right direction.

School picture - by Martin Nordin

School picture – by Martin Nordin

What really has made an impression on me during this visit is what makes it all possible. Of course, there are a lot of factors that have to work to make it all happen. We need the right staff, the right local partner, a connection with the right authorities, and so on. But without money coming in from private donors, corporate partners and governments, none of this would be possible. Without the support from the IKEA Foundation toward this specific programme, fewer children would have the opportunity to get a good education. It is as simple as that.

The most common comment I get when telling people that I work for UNICEF is: “It must be great to work for an organisation that really does something important. That really makes a difference.” And yes, it is truly a privilege to work for UNICEF, because children and societies really benefit through the work that we do.

But the change made for children is not just thanks to UNICEF or any other non-governmental organisation. It is thanks to dedicated people. It is thanks to our engaged donors and partners. It is thanks to people like you, working at IKEA and making it a successful business, that more children in Sierra Leone and many other places can get the quality education they have the right to get. It is your engagement and dedication to do a good job that makes it all possible. It is from the sales of beds, lights and bookshelves that children in Sierra Leone are given the tools they need to rise from poverty. It is thanks to your work with selling soft toys that more children can face a better future.

Soft Toy picture - by Martin Nordin

Soft Toy picture – by Martin Nordin

So all I can say is thanks. Thanks for your engagement and dedication. It must be great to work for an organisation that really does something important. That really makes a difference for a lot of children.

Feel pride in what you do, because what you do is great!

Best regards,
Anton Nyman
Senior Corporate Officer
UNICEF Sweden

About Juli Riegler

Juli is the IKEA Foundation's Digital Communications Manager. Next to managing the IKEA Foundation's website and Facebook account she works closely with Save the Children and UNICEF and IKEA's yearly Soft Toys for Education campaign. She enjoys doing a lot of different sports, travelling and connecting with people from around the world.

A warm meal for all school children


Broth cooking on open fire just outside the classrooms of RC Primary School in Foredugu village. Photo by Martin Nordin

Broth cooking on open fire just outside the classrooms of RC Primary School in Foredugu village. Photo by Martin Nordin

When coming back from the DEC Primary School school in Buya village to the school in Foredugu, that we visited earlier in the morning, lunch was being prepared. Exiting our cars the air was filled with a nice aroma from the broth pot being fed with spices and vegetables.

The women that make this happen. Photo by Martin Nordin

The women that make this happen. Photo by Martin Nordin.

Pounding different types of chillis and small, dried, salty fish together to make a paste for the broth, which was then mixed with bulgur.

Cashew apples. Photo by Martin Nordin

Cashew apples. Photo by Martin Nordin

Cashew apples, part of the vegetables going into the broth.

Juli chipping in. Photo by Martin Nordin

Juli chipping in. Photo by Martin Nordin

Juli was helping out serving the lunch to the children in the classroom. Since two children have to share one plate she had to be very precise when dishing portions on either side of the plate.

Plates on the floor. Photo by Martin Nordin

Plates on the floor. Photo by Martin Nordin

Plate of Bulgur in a broth of vegetables, chilli and and dried salty fish.

Girls ready to dig in. Photo by Martin Nordin

Girls ready to dig in. Photo by Martin Nordin

 

About Martin Nordin

I'm a senior art director working at IKEA Communications Creative Hub in Malmö. I have been working at IKEA for seven years. I'm 36 years old and live in Malmö with my family. For the last couple of years, I've been working with the IKEA Good Cause campaigns: Soft Toys for Education and Brighter Lives for Refugees. I'm very much looking forward to getting out in the field and seeing the real work being done by our partners and the things our efforts have achieved.

Everyone benefits from child friendly teaching methods


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RC Primary School in Foredugu village – by Martin Nordin

“One of our boy’s mother died. His father said he needed him to drop out of school and start working. The boy answered: I need to go to school, it’s as important as my name.” – Mr. Ibrahim, Teacher, DEC Primary School, Buya village.

UNICEFs Land Cruisers going through tough terrain to get to the School in Buya village. Photo by Martin Nordin

UNICEFs Land Cruisers going through tough terrain to get to the School in Buya village. Photo by Martin Nordin

It’s Wednesday morning, we are leaving Makeni for a 45 minute drive to the village of Foredugu to meet with teachers and children that have benefited from the CCTT and EMI programmes. We are all eager to get on the road, going out to the school and seeing first-hand how this works; it’s what we are here for.

Mr. Dumbuya, Teacher at RC Primary School, Foredugu village - By Melani Schultz

Mr. Dumbuya, Teacher at RC Primary School, Foredugu village – by Melani Schultz

“When we were working with the old method I felt like an instructor and the children felt very ashamed when they answered wrong. Children were in fear. Now, when working with the CCTT method the children feel empowerd, like they take care of their own education, like they are doing it themselves.” – Mr Dumbuy, Teacher

Students in the classroom of RC Primary School in Foredugu village - By Martin Nordin

Students in the classroom of RC Primary School in Foredugu village – by Martin Nordin

“In some schools they still use coporal punishment, using the cane to correct students. When we meet teachers we explain to them the benefit of not hitting children. When they say they still need the cane to point the board, we say, use your finger instead” – Mr. Alhaji

Mr. Ibrahim Koroma teaching matter in the science class at DEC Primary School in Buya village - by Martin Nordin

Mr. Ibrahim Koroma teaching matter in the science class at DEC Primary School in Buya village – by Martin Nordin

“Now working with the CCTT method it really feels like the children dare to challenge us, they even teach us sometimes. Like when I talk about different fishing techniques, the children contribute with examples of the local techniques used in thier own community and that adds to all our knowledge.” – Mr. Ibrahim, Teacher, DEC Primary School, Buya village

RC Primary School in Foredugu village. Photo by Martin Nordin

RC Primary School in Foredugu village. Photo by Martin Nordin

About Martin Nordin

I'm a senior art director working at IKEA Communications Creative Hub in Malmö. I have been working at IKEA for seven years. I'm 36 years old and live in Malmö with my family. For the last couple of years, I've been working with the IKEA Good Cause campaigns: Soft Toys for Education and Brighter Lives for Refugees. I'm very much looking forward to getting out in the field and seeing the real work being done by our partners and the things our efforts have achieved.

From bountiful beaches to basic needs for children’s education


After 16 hours and quite a long delay, I finally landed at Lungi airport in Freetown, Sierra Leone. Stepping out of the airplane into warm air filled with wonderful smells, I take a few deep breaths for the last, and probably most exciting, part of my journey from Amsterdam to Sierra Leone: crossing a lagoon on a speedboat to get to the city. Once I arrive at the beach from where the boat is leaving, I look up at the dark skies through some palm trees and see the bright moon and stars shining. Even though it’s almost pitch black, I can tell it’s absolutely beautiful.

The crossing is fun, as we go over the water at high speed. A driver is waiting for me on the other side, and he takes me to the hotel. I arrive way past midnight and crash directly into my bed.

The next morning feels great. The air is warm and welcoming. At breakfast I have some time to meet my fellow IWitnesses. We sit and chat, taking photos of the view over Freetown.

Our first day in Freetown – Natalia, Martin, Melani

Our first day in Freetown – Natalia, Martin, Melani

 View over Freetown from our hotel

View over Freetown from our hotel

The rest of our group will arrive on Sunday, but today we meet John from UNICEF, who has offered to show us the city and one of the many bountiful beaches that Sierra Leone has to offer.

The drive through the city is intense—bouncy roads, little sheds and houses on both sides of the road, streets filled with busy people going to church or selling their products. It smells like fire because people are burning trash. It quickly gets to 35 degrees, but we keep the windows of the car down to take in the scenery and observe the busyness of everything happening around us.

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It takes us almost one hour to leave the hectic roads of Freetown behind and continue driving further south to Bureh Beach. Once we arrive, we almost cannot believe the beauty of what we see…

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After a swim, eating freshly caught fish and relaxing in the sun, we drive back to meet Anton from UNICEF Sweden, who is arriving just in time to join us for dinner.

The contrast could not have been more extreme, seeing the most beautiful beaches and the daily struggles people face every day. One does not get the impression that people suffer, but the facts cannot be overlooked. Sierra Leone is still recovering from a cruel, 10-year-long civil war, which ended in 2002. The maternal mortality rate is among the highest in the world. About 50% of all children work instead of going to school. Girls get married from 11 years of age and drop out of school due to teenage pregnancy. UNICEF’s work in Sierra Leone is critical to improve education and child protection.

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In Sierra Leone, UNICEF focuses on child survival and developing basic education and child protection. At the UNCEF office we get to understand the bigger picture of the challenges related to nutrition, early childhood education and empowering women. With our main interest being education, we soon learn that the country is on the move, experiencing a strong willingness to change and improve.

The enrolment rate for children of six years has gone up to 76%, but about 52% of the teaching staff is not qualified for their level and position. Funding from the Soft Toys for Education campaign is going to improve both issues. When teachers are trained in child-friendly teaching methods and corporal punishment is abandoned, the enrolment rates go up naturally.

At noon we leave for Port Loko, where we meet teachers and facilitators at a teacher training centre where teachers learn child-friendly teaching methods following a UNICEF scheme. The deputy principal and several teachers and facilitators tell us how the new programmes have changed their approach to education and the way they treat their students.

Natalia and Melani in the car on our way to Port Loko – by Juli Riegler

Natalia and Melani in the car on our way to Port Loko – by Juli Riegler

One focus is to abandon the use of the cane and all corporal punishment and to create a child-friendly learning environment, where children want to be, can learn and have fun. This has not been the case in Sierra Leone, where the war has affected a whole generation and physical punishment has been a common way of raising children.

UNICEF teacher training centre at Port Loko – by Juli Riegler

UNICEF teacher training centre at Port Loko – by Juli Riegler

The training centre reaches out to teachers from the whole country and creates a scaling effect, as they take what they learned back to their home communities and pass on the knowledge and methods to local teachers, families and community leaders. This way the programme has already reached many remote and very small villages. In 2013, 398 teachers were trained and certified. The training is followed up on and evaluated by visits from facilitators, who visit the schools and report on their improvement.

The training not only addresses child-friendly teaching methods but also tackles some of the main concerns of Sierra Leonean society, like child marriage, teenage pregnancy and education on sanitation and hygiene.

The first day has truly been an eye-opener in terms of realising where this country is coming from but also what progress is being made and the ambitions to improve life for the coming generations.

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About Juli Riegler

Juli is the IKEA Foundation's Digital Communications Manager. Next to managing the IKEA Foundation's website and Facebook account she works closely with Save the Children and UNICEF and IKEA's yearly Soft Toys for Education campaign. She enjoys doing a lot of different sports, travelling and connecting with people from around the world.

This is happening: My trip to Sierra Leone with UNICEF


 

“Are you excited?”
“Are you nervous?”
“Oh , that’s so cool!”
“It’s going to be the experience of a lifetime.”
“You’ll never be the same.”
“It’s life changing.”

These are just some of the things my co-workers, family, and friends have said to me since they found out I’d be going to Sierra Leone on an IWitness field trip. I don’t want my answers to disappoint anyone, but the truth is, this all still feels like a dream and I can’t get my head around what is about to happen, so I say, “Yes! I know!” to all of it.

The range of feelings one might have when one is about to embark on a journey to a foreign place, to see things they’ve never seen (and will likely never see again), to experience a culture and a way of life so completely unlike their own—I’m experiencing all of them. But as of right now, they are safely locked up in some part of my brain where I store my thoughts about the unknown—until the time comes when I can process and make sense of them.

Maybe tomorrow, when I’m on the plane to Freetown, it will sink in. Or maybe it will sink in when the airplane doors open and I’m hit with the heat and smells of the tropics. Maybe it won’t sink in until I’m out in the schools with the kids, or until I’m back on familiar soil. I don’t know when it will hit me. Or how. But I do know my mind and heart are open. I’m ready for it. Ready for anything…

About Melani Schultz

I grew up in the dry, dusty desert of Phoenix, Arizona – which instilled in me a love of warm weather, the blazing sun, and chlorinated swimming pools. Now I live in cold, dark Sweden – which has only intensified my love for warm weather, the blazing sun, and chlorinated swimming pools. I have a husband and 2.5 kids (2 daughters + a dog). I'm a Copywriter at IKEA Communications Creative Hub. I'm proud of and committed to the sustainability work IKEA is doing, which is why I'm thrilled to be part of the team working with IKEA Foundation and its partners, UNICEF, Save the Children and UNHCR, on the Soft Toys for Education and Brighter Lives for Refugees campaigns. Recently, I worked on the new identity and communication package for the IWitness Programme.

UNICEF welcomes co-workers to Sierra Leone


 

After an unforgettable experience, an IWitness group returned from Sierra Leone. You can follow their journey via their blogs during the next weeks. Read  the introduction post from Issa Davies, UNICEF Sierra Leone, who accompanied them a long the way. 

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My name is Issa Davies, and I have been working as a communications officer at UNICEF Sierra Leone for almost six years. It was a pleasure to work with the IKEA team that recently visited some of our education projects in Sierra Leone. They found the experience really thrilling!

I served as their guide and interpreter for their week-long visit, which was mostly spent in rural areas with inadequate social amenities like good road networks, water, sanitation and electricity. In spite of all these challenges, the team remained committed and was determined to go on and see more. They saw UNICEF’s projects to give children a quality education, especially those who live in disadvantaged rural communities.

Issa Davies UNICEF Sierra Leone s

Issa Davies UNICEF Sierra Leone

Our work with teachers who had been trained on child-centred teaching techniques and emerging issues was very encouraging to them. These are new teaching methodologies that put the child at the centre of learning. They encourage children’s active participation in class by stimulating creative thinking and discouraging the use of the cane. Our IKEA visitors were able to witness this first-hand in some schools in Port Loko District in northern Sierra Leone.

After spending a few days with schools in Port Loko District, we proceeded to the more agrarian and mountainous communities in Koinadugu District, which is in the extreme north. Yes, this is the place to be when you want to see collective groups of women actively promoting their children’s education and discouraging child marriage through mothers’ clubs. Mothers’ clubs are a UNICEF initiative that started in 2010 and have been implemented by a network of non-governmental organisations in over 2,000 communities across the country. In these clubs, mothers also engage in income-generating activities, such as farming and soap making, and the small profits help keep their communities’ children in school, refurbish schools, and give stipends to teachers who are not yet on the government’s payroll.

Of course, this cannot be achieved without the reliable partnership of Cause Canada, which implements the programme in Koinadugu District.

Our IKEA visitors reiterated that these programmes have had positive impacts on the lives of children and women. They no doubt remain committed to supporting UNICEF’s mission of helping children.

I feel very satisfied to be contributing in my own little way towards the achievement of UNICEF’S mandate of helping children and women.

Everywhere we visited, communities definitely want a brighter future for their children.
They have all made us proud!

About Juli Riegler

Juli is the IKEA Foundation's Digital Communications Manager. Next to managing the IKEA Foundation's website and Facebook account she works closely with Save the Children and UNICEF and IKEA's yearly Soft Toys for Education campaign. She enjoys doing a lot of different sports, travelling and connecting with people from around the world.

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

About Lisen Wiren

I am from Sweden, and I am a sustainability manager leading IKEA’s sustainability agenda in the Netherlands. It is an amazing job where one of my tasks is to engage people in our vision (to create a better everyday life for the many people) in and around the stores. I also get to create awareness around what we are already doing together with our partners, including UNICEF in Rwanda, which I am very excited to learn more about through IWitness. In my free time, I enjoy small- and large-scale adventures and discovery—perhaps at its best on a motorbike or horseback.

Fun and games in child-friendly spaces


After two and a half hours driving from Chengdu, we arrived in Ya’an City, Szechuan Province. Ya’an is a small city made of eight counties with a population of 1.5 million people, covering an area of 50,000, also famous for its panda reserve and for having a beautiful traditional bridge.

Beautiful traditional build bridge in Ya'An City

Beautiful traditional build bridge in Ya’an City

The purpose of the visit is to see the emergency response conducted by Save the Children after the earthquake in April 2013. Almost 99% of the buildings were affected, 197 people died, and over 1,400 were injured. After the earthquake, Save the Children worked with 40 non-governmental organisations and the One Foundation, a Chinese foundation set up by Jet Lee, a famous Kung Fu actor from China.

Driving through the area that was hit hard by the earth quake in April 2013

Driving through the area that was hit hard by the earthquake in April 2013

It is a really meaningful trip for us because local people’s real lives are even more important after the earthquake stops being on the news. In the past six months, Save the Children have been conducting psychosocial support training and helping children overcome the trauma and distress caused by the quake.

We depart in the morning from “Rain County” to Lu Shan County. Firstly we visited a kindergarten; so many adorable kids have been relocated into temporary houses. What surprised me the most is that in Lu Shan County, there are only two public kindergartens while the other 23 are all privately supported by local people and are less equipped and lack resources.

One of the many kindergarden that has been destroyed by the earth quake

One of the many kindergardens destroyed by the earth quake

The new temporary kindergarden

The new temporary kindergarden

The kids are quite happy and curious to have us around, and we really see the effective outcome of the project “Healing and education through art” by Save the Children. We know it still takes time, but indeed we know it works when we see their shining smiles.

Juli, Tammy, Jessica and Pauline with the children

Juli, Tammy, Jessica and Pauline with the children

The second stop is the very first child-friendly space built in Lu Shan County after the earthquake. There are around 50 child-friendly spaces in Ya’an City, and IKEA Trading China supported them with furniture and soft toys for eight of them, about $20,000 USD in value.

This temporary centre where the child-friendly space is located can accommodate 700 people, who plan to live here for the next two years until their houses will be rebuilt. It is a really clean and well organized space for those families; they can have electronic heaters during winter and share a laundry line, kitchen and toilets.

Temporary homes were set-up after the earth quake

Temporary homes were set up after the earthquake

The teacher appreciated the great support from IKEA China, and we saw the children really have fun in the play room; the toys make the room feel cozy and safe, which is the most important thing for the children.

The child friendly space is part of the temporary housing, where children can go to learn and play

The child-friendly space is part of the temporary housing, where children can go to learn and play

Jessica with two girls in front of the child friendly space room

Jessica with two girls in front of the child-friendly space room

This is the last stop for the field trip. Everything has gone well, and it is hard to say goodbye. We gain so much positive energy, although a lot of things still remain to be done.

 

About Pauline Zhang

I have worked at IKEA Industry in Shanghai for two years as a business developer. I have double bachelor degrees from the University of Tasmania (Australia) and Shanghai Ocean University. I enjoy karaoke (a lot), shopping (of course), cooking, badminton and swimming.

School is life


Day 3 of our journey with Save the Children began at a special education school in the Wuhou District in Chengdu, China.

Jessica with a girl from the special education school

Jessica with a girl from the school

The special education school we visited currently has 63 students with varying forms of abilities, and ranging from ages 6 to 17 years old. The main priority of this school is to slowly transition into a resource centre. The resource centre will not only provide quality education for children with severe disabilities who currently cannot receive any kind of education, but it will also provide rehabilitation services for all children with special needs, information services for families with children with disability as well as offering training for teachers and school managers on inclusive education. The resource centre will finally also provide learning assessment for children with special needs to be evaluated and assessed based on their abilities, so they can be placed into mainstream schools and rehab accordingly. At the moment in China there are no services available under this aspect.

Pauline with children from the special education school

Pauline with children from the school – by Juli Riegler

The school has several vocational classes that students were able to attend. These classes are also referred to as life-skills classes. The first life-skills class we observed and participated in was a cooking class. Students were learning how to make traditional Chinese dumplings. The lesson began with what ingredients were used to boil the dumplings. Although I was not very good at making the dumplings, one student in particular insisted I learn the proper way to make them. He was extremely patient, showing me what to do next. It brought joy to my heart knowing that these students were benefiting from these life-skills classes.

Jessica making dumplings with the children

Jessica making dumplings with the young people

After the cooking class, we were able to observe a musical therapy class. The teacher comes from Hong Kong, and she studied in the United States for five years. You can immediately tell she is truly passionate about what she does. She is determined to help children with different levels of abilities through the use of music. As we walked into the classroom, she was playing on the piano to the tune of “If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands.” The children all sat in a close circle with the teacher’s aid helping them focus on the music and clap when it was time. By the end of the musical therapy class, the students were more attentive to the teacher and they were focused on her singing and playing the tambourine.

Observing a music therapy class

Observing a music therapy class – by Jessica  Hale

By the end of the day, there were so many emotions to take in and process. Walking into one of the classrooms and seeing an IKEA children’s table and stools helped put everything into perspective. For me, it made me realize that everything we do with IKEA’s Soft Toy for Education campaign truly benefits children all over the world. Save the Children is changing the lives of children with different forms of abilities in more ways than we can ever imagine. From this experience, I will take away many pictures and memories of smiling children who have changed my life in more ways than they will ever know.

Steven with one of the boys from the special education school

Steven with one of the boys from the special education school – by Juli Riegler

About Jessica Hale

Jessica Hale is a sales co-worker at IKEA Baltimore in the United States. She has worked for IKEA for nine years and looks forward to visiting Save the Children projects in China.