Seeing things from a new perspective


On this last day of our trip we are in the spirit of reflection. We all sat together and processed our different experiences and emotions. We all traveled to Africa with some idea of how the country would look like, how people work and live, and what UNICEF is doing to help the children in Africa. But the reality was quite different. Wild animals, that are located in national parks or zoos, are for us Europeans tempting attractions, but we soon realized that for the people of Malawi animals like goats, cows and chickens, from which they have year-round benefits, are much more important. The weather, with strong heat and heavy rains, affects more than just what clothes to wear. They are influential factors for crop nutrition and education of children (creating an environment conducive for learning and traveling long distances to school). We found that the role of UNICEF is not just supplying donations, but also working in close cooperation with the Government of Malawi and the people affected by impoverished and difficult conditions. Even UNICEF’s excellent schooling model alone would help Malawi become more self-sufficient if it was adapted across the country.

There are so many aspects that must be taken into account when developing programs to promote education: the fight against HIV / AIDS, malnutrition and poverty, ensure the protection of children, etc. It’s a difficult task, but thanks to the continuous work of UNICEF and more importantly, the resilient will and courage of Malawi’s population, it is proving effective and will continue to do so. For us it is surprising that the children enjoyed school, but the inherent benefits, which include uniforms, shoes, food, running water and toilets are a great motivation for the children of Malawi. Thanks in part to the Soft Toy campaign, generations of children will be afforded the opportunity to go to school and be better prepared to find a job, earn money and improve conditions of not only themselves, but also their families.

Mothers and children gathering water at a communal water pump

Mothers and children gathering water at a communal water pump

It was on the first day of our trip, with our visit to the school in Mchuchu that we quickly realized that with the help of UNICEF, the children are not necessarily learning outside under a tree, but are inside classes equipped with teaching aids. We saw that after using the toilet, they can wash their hands under running water to prevent the spread of disease. We experienced that the prevention of HIV / AIDS begins in the classroom with the inclusion of appropriate instruction and education into the school curriculum, supplemented with the distribution of condoms and other prevention programs. In addition, men are provided the opportunity to visit hospitals where they can voluntarily undergo circumcision, without cost, in an effort to increase hygiene and reduce the risk of transmission of venereal diseases to their partner.

Doctors and Nurses of One-stop Care clinic, who assist and care for children who are victims of rape

Doctors and Nurses of One-stop Care clinic, who assist and care for children who are victims of rape

Women are encouraged to bring their newborn children to a hospital for respective care and treatment. This includes free basic vaccinations and primary care. Despite these essentials, we have seen that in regards to hygiene, number of beds, and the ratio of ambulances to hospitals that Malawi still has a long way to go. But what did stand out were the coordination, effectiveness, and cohesion of all of the healthcare and educational programs.

Malawi is a very poor country, where many families live with only 12 USD per day. We had the opportunity to visit such a family. There was a mother and father with five children left struggling every day on little food and safety. Fortunately, four of their children go to the school organized by UNICEF, where conditions are better than at home, which is a small brick house without furniture, toilets and proper food.

Visit to family household

Visit to family household

Each of us leaves Malawi with the firm determination to implement the next Christmas Soft Toy campaign with even more effort than in the past because we now know from experience that every dollar, which flows to developing countries, has more value than we could previously ever imagine.

At the very end we would like to thank everyone who was involved in the preparation of our journey, including our colleagues from IKEA Czech Republic, and our friends and partners in UNICEF Czech Republic, UNICEF Malawi, and IKEA Foundation. But the biggest thanks are for the brave and hospitable people of Malawi, who let us into their private lives. Everyone with whom we spent time with were very friendly, humble and always smiling. They were very candid and openly discussed their problems without any shame. Their struggle to survive in this context was incredibly moving. Now we will never forget.

Saying goodbye to Malawi

Saying goodbye to Malawi

 

About Stázi Jakubcová

I have been working at IKEA for almost three years. I went through a trainee program at the Zličín (Prague, Czech Republic) store and Service Office. Currently I am working as Business Navigator in the IKEA Ostrava store. I like discovering, travelling and planning my sports activities but many times wind up too lazy to do the actual sports activity. V IKEA jsem 2,5 roku. Prošla jsem trainee programem na Zličíně, Servisní organizací a momentálně pracuji jako Business Navigator v Ostravě. Ráda objevuju nové věci, cestuju a plánuju svoje sportovní activity (na samotný sport jsem příliš líná)

A School without Soft Toys


Does an IKEA Soft Toy really make a difference towards the Educational system in Africa? I arrived to Malawi in hopes to seek out an answer to this question. The Mchuchu Primary School that we visited earlier this week exemplified the successful support UNICEF has provided through the Schools for Africa Program. Mchuchu Primary provided the children with clean latrines, comfortable seating, a safe environment and overall a positive atmosphere for learning. But until I stepped into Phanda Primary School, a school that does not benefit through the Schools for Africa Program, I never would have understood the dramatic differences.

A student dance and drama performance, by Natasa Njegovan

A student dance and drama performance, by Natasa Njegovan

Phanda Primary School was built in 1919 and to this day, the structure of the school remains as is. There are seven classrooms and only two are in good condition while the other five have cracking walls and struggle with leaking roofs. With 1,223 students, Phanda Primary is unable to provide desks or chairs forcing the children to learn sitting on the ground and even outside under trees for large classes.

A teacher in action! By Natasa Njegovan

A teacher in action! By Natasa Njegovan

Child Friendly Schools are required to contain clean and accessible latrines as well as access to clean water. Phanda Primary is equipped with separate washrooms for both boys and girls however, they provide little to no privacy, unsanitary conditions and most importantly no wash station. For an adolescent girl a sanitary latrine is one of the key drivers to staying in school creating an increase in drop outs at Phanda Primary.

Unsanitary female latrines, by Natasa Njegovan

Unsanitary female latrines, by Natasa Njegovan

Despite the conditions at Phanda Primary there’s still an inspirational vibe within the community. Phanda Primary receives an immense amount of support from their “Mother Group” who encourages adolescent drop outs to return to school. They provide counseling and support to those girls who have had babies and been discouraged. Functional Literacy Programs take place in communities to help assist those drop outs and teach them to read and write for nine months. This way whether they decide to return to school or not they are at least literate.

Viola and I practicing Chichewa with a group of students, by Jennifer Huang

Viola and I practicing Chichewa with a group of students, by Jennifer Huang

Although UNICEF is not a donor to Phanda, UNICEF has combined forces with the UN on the Joint Program for Adolescents and Education. This is a scholarship program aimed for adolescent girls awarded by the District. Phanda has 21 girls benefiting from the scholarship, 5 of those have returned after having a baby.

Phanda Primary School faces a lot of challenges. The poor learning conditions prevent many students from excelling or even enjoying school. “Iwitnessed” the drastic difference our Soft Toys for Education Campaign makes in African Schools. A Child Friendly School is not just about gaining materials but empowering our children to grow. I look forward to instilling my passion for the Soft Toys for Education Program when I return.

Children excited to be on break! By Natasa Njegovan

Children excited to be on break! By Natasa Njegovan

About Natasa Njegovan

When it was announced that I would be travelling to Malawi as an ambassador of IKEA I was speechless. I feel honoured to have the opportunity to visit UNICEF, an organization known worldwide for providing a better life to our children. Arriving in Canada at a young age, I grew up watching my parents struggle in this new and foreign country in order to provide for us. This upbringing triggered my interest in local charity work starting in my elementary school years. Since I began my IKEA career I have been able to bring my community involvement and passion for children’s causes right into my workplace.

“Azongu! Kongola!”


In the morning, we gathered in front of our hotel, once again full of anticipation and exhilaration. Our plan was to go to a school two hours away in southern Malawi. Along the way we saw many local markets, herds of goats and cows, stray dogs and crowds of people who were either carrying goods on their heads or had them on carts being pulled by donkeys. We stopped at one of the gas stations to replenish our bottled water, which caused quite an upheaval as group of young boys from the marketplace, who were selling eggs and donuts, ran over to us shouting, “Azongu!”, which means “white”. We greeted each other and took some pictures. Afterwards, we continued on our way and arrived shortly at the primary school in Chikwawa.

With the young boys from the marketplace

With the young boys from the marketplace

Upon our arrival at the school we were welcomed by the director, Chiwanda. He told us that the school was founded in 1919 and that some of his previous students received government posts as ministers or officials. There are 3 surrounding schools that also send their students to complete their studies here. The school has 1,223 students, including 650 boys and 573 girls. The school has 10 teachers and one intern, and there are 7 classrooms. Unlike the schools we visited on Monday, we’ve seen dilapidated sections of the building, with classrooms of children learning outdoors under the trees. Also, there are not enough houses for the teachers who remain here through the week and the toilets do not meet the basic needs of the teachers or students. Basically, it consisted of two separate buildings, one for boys and one for girls, in which there were always five toilets, which were essentially holes in the ground. There is much more that remains to be done!

In the school

In the school

In 2010, UNICEF introduced a new program at the school that focused on education of girls. The members of the program are chosen by “Community Mothers” and their selections are then approved by local officials who are responsible for social affairs. Currently, this program includes 21 girls, aged 12 to 19 years. Girls in the program will receive a uniform, school supplies (pens, notebooks, textbooks- from government programs, children receive only one pen and one workbook for the school year, which is not enough), and shoes. The shoes can be motivation enough for involvement because many students lack shoes but need to walk long stretches on hot roads to attend classes.

Girls with uniform

Girls with uniform

One of the students, Dorothy Joseph, who after attending the UNICEF program entered high school, spoke with us and said that the biggest obstacles to participating in school is physical distance, forced marriages, pregnancies, and that their teachers are only men, who do not always understand the needs of girls and their problems.

Dorothy

Dorothy

One of the main endeavors of the “Community Mothers” is to try to convince girls, who have left school, due to pregnancy or early marriage, to return to study.

Nzhoteka - Is it possible

Nzhoteka - Is it possible

UNICEF’s efforts here do not end at traditional education, but they also facilitate youth clubs where children can meet others and learn. There is also sex education of youth, which provides counseling and information about contraception. Additionally, they support children by empowering their parents through adult literacy centers where, during a nine month program, adults can learn to read and write and become self-sufficient.

At the end of our visit, children danced and acted out a play for us, which focused on the issues surrounding early marriage. Afterwards, we presented two suitcases full of notebooks, pens and pencils to the Headmaster, for which he responded with a cry of, “Kongola”, or “beauty”. With that we went on our way back to the hotel. On the way, our adventurers, Stázi and Máca, decided to visit a local market where they purchased some souvenirs and local delicacies, sticks of sugar cane.

"Kongola!"

"Kongola!"

We cannot wait to see what the next day holds for us!

Children saying goodbye

Children saying goodbye

 

About Petra Stejskalová

I am 28 years and was born and, to this day, still live in Prague, Czech Republic. Six years ago, while studying sociology at University, I started working at IKEA as a part time co-worker in the Kids Corner (Smaland). Later I moved to the store Marketing department . Today I work as the Direct Marketing Specialist for the CZ/HU/SK IKEA region. I am really into music – I love bigbeat, rock, punk, ska, rock’n’roll, rocksteady and psychobilly. My hobbies besides music are attending my small garden, my young foxterier dog and the history of the 20th century. Travelling to Malawi will be a great challenge for me but I am looking forward to fullfilling my African dream! Je mi 28 let, narodila jsem se a stále žiju v Praze – v hlavním městě České republiky. V IKEA jsem začala pracovat asi před šesti lety na částečný úvazek. V té době jsem ještě studovala vysokou školu, obor sociologie. Později jsem nastoupila do oddělení marketingu v obchodním domě a dnes pracuji jako Direct marketing specialist pro region CZ/HU/SK. Ze všeho nejraději mám hudbu – poslouchám bigbeat, rock, punk, ska, rock´n´roll, rocksteady a psychobilly. Ráda pracuji na naší malé zahrádce, mám mladého pejska foxteriéra a zajímá mě historie 20. století. Cesta do Malawi je pro mě velkou výzvou a těším se, že si splním svůj africký sen.

We built a what?


When I imagined the results of the Soft Toys for Education campaign in Malawi, I thought, “Great! I wonder if we built schools! We probably bought books! Maybe we supplied some uniforms!” You know what you get when you put together a building, some books, a teacher and students? You get a building, some books, a teacher and students. But when we layer in UNICEF’s Child-Friendly Schools Framework, ah, then the magic happens.

Viola Mah and Stazi Jacubcova meeting Mchuchu primary students - by Jennifer Huang

Viola Mah and Stazi Jacubcova meeting Mchuchu primary students - by Jennifer Huang

There are over a dozen specific characteristics of a Child-Friendly School (CFS). Mchuchu Primary School near Lilongwe, Malawi is one of the schools supported by UNICEF’s Schools for Africa program with a full CFS package. One of the highlights of our tour was the brick outbuildings which were Mchuchu Primary’s well-maintained latrines. Because proper latrines and hand-washing facilities promote physical health (CFS point 9) so that learners do not miss school. Plus, segregated latrines acknowledge that girls also attend school and must be provided for (CFS point 4). And menstruating girls are less likely to miss school or drop out if the school has private facilities (CFS point 4).

Two Mchuchu primary students using the school's hand washing taps - by Natasa Njegovan

Two Mchuchu primary students using the school's hand washing taps - by Natasa Njegovan

Beyond the classroom, teacher and books, the whole community plays a part in educating a child. Mchuchu Primary’s Parent-Teacher Association collaborates to be family-focused (CFS point 12). Additionally, the school has the input of a Mother Group: 10 women nominated from surrounding villages to advise girls especially on remaining in or returning to the schooling system (CFS point 2). These women act as the eyes, ears, voice of the school in the village, and represent their village when they meet at the school. It is a community partnership focused on the well-being of the children (CFS point 13).

Listen to your elders - Mchuchu Mother's group and PTA members await us - by Viola Mah

Listen to your elders - Mchuchu Mother's group and PTA members await us - by Viola Mah

The saying goes that it takes a village to raise a child. I’m learning that it takes so much more to educate that child.

Nseba a young Malawian - by Viola Mah

Nseba a young Malawian - by Viola Mah

 

About Viola May Mah

Hello & Bonjour from Canada! I have worked at IKEA Edmonton for 16 years now, from Sales to Logistics and now in Operations as the Business Navigator. Along the way I have made many friends, learned a little about home furnishings and a lot about myself. I am married with two children, the most important people in my world. When I can find spare time, I like to cook and I like a good story. I try to run a little and I try to sail a little.

“How did we not meet any snakes?” The screenplay of our trip to Africa


Cut to the airport in Prague. Five excited women stand waiting. Anticipation takes flight and takes us along for the ride. Eventually we touch down in Frankfurt and find our connection. As we board, the First Officer of our Ethiopian airline asks us, „Where exactly is Prague?“ It was only a few months ago that we were asking the same about Malawi.

Cut to Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa. Our first touch with the real Africa. Now that feeling, that realization, is sinking in, becoming more tangible. We are the ones standing out now, the ones who are wearing strange clothes. We take flight once again and travel through Blantyre despite it being further away than our final destination of Lilongwe, Malawi.

Malawi from above

Malawi from above

Cut to us, us exhausted and exhilarated five, standing in Lilongwe airport. The whole airport is one basic building, with high-tech finger and eye scanners accompanied with low-tech stamps in a paper envelope. From the very beginning, we discovered Malawi is a land filled with people who are quite simply nice, polite and humble. We are greeted by UNICEF representatives who are waiting for us with 2 Land Cruisers with massive antenae in the front. The cars look like Rhinos with wheels. They’re the domesticated kind though, and they’re kind enough to take us to our hotel. It’s during our journey to the hotel that one of our fears is put to rest. The UNICEF representatives assure us that when we finally meet that deadly snake we’re so afraid of that we take a picture, because it would be the first of it’s kind in Malawi. Relieved, we finally reach the hotel and settle in. Soon after we continue on to dinner where we meet our Canadian colleagues Viola, Natasa, and Jennifer, and our colleague from the IKEA Foundation, Jonathan. We’re here and together and everything‘s going to be alright.

The next day takes us to a meeting at UNICEF headquarters. We discover that UNICEF’s speciality is not just good will and empowering others, it is also, as acting director John puts it, „very good at providing death by PowerPoint“. With our weary eyes, but still beating hearts, we learn that providing education is much more complex than just teaching numbers to children. It is about survival, through health care and nutrition; it’s about development, through education; and it’s about participation, by taking an active role in the society. We also had the honor of meeting Mr. Michael Banda, who is responsible for education, which is in part sponsored by the IKEA Soft Toy Campaign.

UNICEF meeting

UNICEF meeting

Cut to Mchuchu school, our first fieldwork. The school is introduced to us by the Head Teacher, Elise, and the Deputy Head Teacher, Anette. They tell us about the history of this school and show us around the classrooms, toilets and bareholes. Then we meet them, it’s hard not to fall in love with them. Very sweet, very curious, they love the camera, but are still shy. It’s just impossible to stop taking pictures of these amazing children.

Looking at their pictures

Looking at their pictures

Later, we are invited to observe a lesson in Life skills. The subject of this lesson is regarding the barriers preventing effective communication about HIV. The topic provides us a new perspective and the only audience members more engaged than us are the ten year old pupils.

Thanks to the support of UNICEF, kids are now learning in classrooms

Thanks to the support of UNICEF, kids are now learning in classrooms

Cut to us now as we are being introduced to the members of a school committee and a mother’s group. They play a key role in the children’s education, especially the girls‘. These mothers are appointed from nearby villages and come together twice a month to talk to girls about their troubles. They also visit girls who dropped out of school because they had children. They are trying to persuade them to come back to school to gain an education, which would broaden their options in the future.

Meeting the mother group

Meeting the mother group

As we bid farewell to the children, who were kind enough to show us a glimpse of their culture by playing music with some buckets, complete with some dancing and singing, we handed over an IKEA Family suitcase full of goodies (i.e. pencils, exercise books and footballs).

As we close the door on the first leg of our adventure we look forward to driving a few hours to our next stop, Blantyre. Weren’t we just there yesterday?

- Petra, Adela, Stazi & Maca

 

About Adéla Josková

I work as a social & enviromental coordinator for IKEA, and I’m responsible for 2 stores in Prague. I started to work in this current position after I finished university. My interests are sports, especially skiing and badminton. Also I used to do athletics and later I played softball. I love spending time with my little nieces. Ve společnosti IKEA pracuji jako sociální & environmentální koordinátor. V České republice mám na starosti dva pražské obchodní domy. Po ukončení studií na vysoké škole jsem nastoupila na tuto pozici. Narodila jsem se v Praze a stále i v Praze bydlím. Od malička mám velmi ráda sport, prevážně lyžování a v posledních letech i badminton. Závodně jsem dělala atletiku a hrála softbal. I hudba patří mezi mé zájmy a jelikož má oblíbená zpěvačka je Pink, nemohu se již dočkat jejího pražského koncertu. Mám dvě malé neteře kterým se ráda věnuji.

What kind of baggage are you carrying?


It’s May 15th, UNICEF’s International Day of the Family and I’m packing for my iWitness journey to Malawi with UNICEF. Deciding what I will need (sunscreen, long pants) and won’t need (evening gown, heels) is turning into a metaphor for the trip. ‘Baggage’ sometimes refers to negative thoughts that we carry around with us. I suspect that this trip will remind me to stop fretting over traffic jams and bad coffee, and to start appreciating how much I have and am able to do.

I’m taking along many well-wishes from my IKEA family who are almost as excited as I am. When I come home, I’ll tell them about how our seemingly ordinary jobs affect people and families thousands of miles away. We go to work and maybe talk to a few people, hang a banner, restock a pallet. How is it possible that these small actions can change the world?

I’m taking along much love from my own family who are torn between missing me and being proud of me. When I come home, I’ll tell them about how our ordinary lives would seem quite extraordinary to these people on the other side of the world. My two children have always had a cosy bed to sleep in, food to eat, and plenty of water to drink. Can my kids even imagine struggling to be educated or healthy? I’m not even sure that I can. If only I could take them along. Maybe with a bigger suitcase?

Alexandra Shepherd & Benjamin Shepherd, credit: Viola Mah

Credit Viola Mah: Alexandra Shepherd & Benjamin Shepherd

About Viola May Mah

Hello & Bonjour from Canada! I have worked at IKEA Edmonton for 16 years now, from Sales to Logistics and now in Operations as the Business Navigator. Along the way I have made many friends, learned a little about home furnishings and a lot about myself. I am married with two children, the most important people in my world. When I can find spare time, I like to cook and I like a good story. I try to run a little and I try to sail a little.

What I learned about education in Ethiopia


 

My name is Anita Pap. I am one of the lucky people who visited UNICEF projects in Ethiopia supported by the IKEA Soft Toy Campaign. Even though my trip was six months ago, I still think about it every day.

Arrival

Arrival

One of the most important UNICEF programs focuses on education in Ethiopia. It is important that every child has access to a quality education. UNICEF focuses on teachers and the training of teachers. The continuous development of teachers is very important so children’s education quality does not fall behind other countries’ students.

A warm and welcoming greeting

A warm and welcoming greeting

One of the major problems is that not all children have the opportunity to attend school. Nearly 82 million people live in Ethiopia. About 82% of the population is found in rural areas and makes a living from subsistence farming. The children who live in rural areas help their parents with housework and work with the animals. Sometimes these children don’t have a kindergarten and nursery. The fortunate start education at the age of four, but some are not able to afford for their children to attend school when they reach the age of six. Many children drop out of school when they have finished the first grade. Over one out of five students drop out of school before reaching grade 2.

Girl at school

Girl at school

Over 3.02 million children are out of school.

European education systems are different from what we saw in Ethiopia in many ways. The children go to school in two shifts per day. The first team’s lessons start in the morning and finish early in the afternoon. These young people have lunch at home then help their parents work in the fields and around the house. The other group arrives at school early in the afternoon and learns until early evening. This team started the day with work.

Blue Nile

Blue Nile

They will learn games and rhymes in kindergarten. They get to know some new words in English and Amharic from pictures. Amharic is the local language in this region. Lessons are interactive, playfully and sometimes they try new things in practice. (For example: ball games, painting, math). The equipment is very simple, just like the environment. Often the teachers paint pictures on the wall. There are few images in the textbooks.

Farmers from the area

Farmers from the area

The biggest influence on me during the Ethiopian trip was when I saw the children and teachers’ attitude to each other. I talked with a man who works in the hotel reception where we were staying. He said to me, “You must respect three people in your life: God, Teacher, and Parents. In that order.”

It was a very incredible feeling when I saw the respectful behaviour for the teachers. The children silently sit in the classroom and watch all the movements and speech of the teacher. Most of the children who live there want to be a teacher when they grow up.

Handwashing station

Handwashing station

The teachers’ dedication to the profession and to the children was an incredible experience for us. Sometimes the teachers prepare their own materials by hand to help the children learn. The teachers are constantly training themselves because they are very important for the quality of education. One teacher deals with at least 40-50 children at the same time, but sometimes teachers can have 100 students per class. I see in their eyes their commitment and willingness to help.

There is a need for education and training. These children walk 6-8 kilometres every day in the sun and the rocky, gravel roads, sometimes barefoot, just to attend school. These kids help their parents before and after school.

Spinning cotton

Spinning cotton

We experienced during our trip one of the biggest opportunities for improvement in Ethiopia: giving children access to education. This is supported by UNICEF, the IKEA Soft Toy campaign, and the adults who earlier attended education programs. This problem won’t be solved easily.

The Soft Toy campaign is much different from other donations. For each soft toy IKEA sells (irrespective of the value), the IKEA Foundation donates 1 euro to Save the Children and UNICEF projects. This campaign runs from 2nd of November to 23th December this year. The donation will help many more children change their lives through having a quality education. The campaign has raised € 47.5 million since 2003, helping more than 8 million children in 45 countries have better living conditions.

About Anita Pap

I work as a marketing specialist at Budaors store in Hungary. I live with my dog; his name is Bunny because he has big ears. I like a lot of sports, but my favorite is Kangoo Jumps. I’m a very cheerful, smiling girl, who likes her job and life. My motto is ‘Impossible is nothing’.

Saying goodbye to Ethiopia


Before I went to Ethiopia, I was afraid of what would happen, if I would experience some of the negative things that the media presents.

Fortunately, it didn’t happen. It was wonderful to get to know the culture of the local people. I saw so much of UNICEF’s work for children. I know the IKEA Soft Toy campaign’s role in this and we can help create better living conditions for people.

It seems to me Ethiopia is a country of extremes. Some things are very nice and work well and some are bad, but it forms a cohesive whole. The people have got simple equipment, but everybody uses their minds.

I was very sad at the airport, because this week passed quickly and I was already missing my new friends. But I know I want to do everything possible to make the next Soft Toy campaign more successful. This is my new goal and now a lot of work fills all my free time, but it makes me happy to know that I can help. :)

Anita sits with students in a school

© Katrina Crew

My feelings haven’t changed; perhaps they have strengthened. I now have even more of a feeling for this place and culture. Maybe the real home of my heart is in Bahir Dar and therefore it is difficult now to say goodbye. I wanted to visit Africa and I wanted to know the differences between cultures before the trip. And now I only want to go back to my new home, to the dear people I met.

I hope I will come back and that this wasn’t last encounter with Katrina, Indrias, Solomon and other people who live there. I would like to see this country in 2 or 3 years to see how much develops. What will happen to the kids who I met in the kindergarten?

I say goodbye from you, dear blog readers. Thanks to everyone who has read my notes.

I hope I will sign up again in a few years and the adventure will continue in Bahir Dar, or somewhere else in the world. :)

Anita

IKEA and UNICEF partners in front of the Blue Nile

© Katrina Crew

About Anita Pap

I work as a marketing specialist at Budaors store in Hungary. I live with my dog; his name is Bunny because he has big ears. I like a lot of sports, but my favorite is Kangoo Jumps. I’m a very cheerful, smiling girl, who likes her job and life. My motto is ‘Impossible is nothing’.

Final farewell to Ethiopia


Well, the moment has come to say goodbye.

The trip, location, people, tastes, sounds, thoughts, moods were all wonderful. I enjoyed very much the Ethiopian everyday life and I got an insight into those places where you are allowed to enter as tourists.

This was an opportunity which we will not get twice in our life. That is why I have embraced it, and thus got a lifetime of memories for myself.

I am grateful for this journey to the organization of UNICEF, IKEA Foundation, and IKEA, who deliver the program together. In addition, I would like to thank István Bolyky, my colleague in Budapest, who provided the maximum assistance in the preparation for the trip, and to Petra Cempirkova, who organised all of the travel preparation. I could always turn to them for help,they were always willing to help me.

In this trip the most of the help was offered by Katrina Crew, Digital Content Manager from the IKEA Foundation, and she was “our mother”.

Eternal gratitude to Indrias Getachew, who organized all of the programs and provided a wide range of information. His great attitude made our days more enjoyable.

Similarly, a lot of gratitude and thanks to the UNICEF drivers, especially Solomon, because he was a sort of bodyguard when we went out in the night, and he always had a good mood, creating a great atmosphere during the time we spent in the car on our trip.

And now let’s look a little summary from our experiences:

What was unique, interesting, different from the usual for us?

    • In Ethiopia it is still only 2004, according to their calendar. It was good to be 8 years younger again for a week :)
    • Young people move only their shoulders when they dance to modern Ethiopian music, but it is incredibly fast and impressive. They smiled when we tried to do it.
    • Coffee is always filled to overflowing the cup.
    • When they drink coffee, they light incense, thus elevating the mood of the moment.
    • The local residents carry grain, with their bags and dishes on the top of their heads; they do not carry it in their hands.
    • The boys on street corners clean people’s shoes, who ask for this service.
A boy shines shoes in Ethiopia

© Sara Szabo

 

    • In paintings, if a person only has one eye, that person is bad; people with both eyes are good.
    • There are many poor people wearing a medal with the image of Maria Theresa on their neck, which is worn with great respect. The coin also serves as a means of payment, as it is silver.
A girl wears a Maria Theresa necklace

© Sara Szabo

    • If you touch a certain product at the street stalls you are no longer allowed to leave without the merchandise. If the price is not suitable for you, and you want to leave, the seller will go after you and begin to negotiate until you buy the goods at the right price, which is suitable for both of you.
    • There is carpet on the floor only in the kindergarten we saw. The kids have to take off their shoes, so the shoes are lined up outside the “group room”. Otherwise the room was empty, we could not see any other games or equipment in it.
Kids shoes

© Sara Szabo

    • At pedestrian crossings on the road cars have priority. If pedestrians are using pedestrian crossings, cars use their horn and drive in front of pedestrians.
    • Traffic lamps are rare there; a policeman directs traffic at critical crossroads.
    • Taxis are blue and white painted Lada cars in Addis Ababa. The locals say these are very strong, only they possess traction on a gravel road.
Addis Ababa taxi

© Sara Szabo

What was admirable?

    • The respect with which the children listened to their teachers during lessons. There was not any shouting or quarrels.
    • A lot of smiling, bright-eyed children
    • Their friendly manner. Almost everyone smiled and waved at us.
    • People work hard, and show strength.
    • Their attitude to work. There are very high poverty levels, but the Ethiopian people are hard workers. I took a photo from the airplane above to see a lot of cultivated plots.
Cultivated land

© Sara Szabo

  • A lot of eucalyptus trees, with their wonderful healing effect
  • Drivers watch out for humans and animals on the sides of the road. They can use the car horn in order to warn them to keep off lest they get hurt.
  • Their culture and monuments that are centuries old shine in glory. (Some buildings have not been restored, and they are still amazing).

What fills me with regret?

  • The poor lack of equipment at school
  • Many children have no shoes on their feet
  • The lack of basic hygiene (toilet, hand washing) for most schools, restaurants
  • Even with UNICEF’s help many don’t have learning opportunities
Kids feet

© Sara Szabo

That’s why I would like to finally ask everyone who has an opportunity to help during the IKEA Soft Toy campaign before Christmastime to promote children’s education, because after each soft toy is sold, the IKEA Foundation gives one euro to UNICEF or Save the Children, who spend the money on those improvements which we described in our previous blogs.

About Sára Szabó

I have been working for IKEA in Hungary almost for 22 years. At the beginning I worked in the Smaland, because I was originally a kindergarten teacher. Now I am working in the IKEA Business department. I have two sons. In my free time I usually do gardening, do some sport (aerobics, zumba, yoga), dance, read books, bake cakes, and take photos.

Water supply program in Gunda village


On Thursday we visited Gunda village and the local primary school to learn about the community water supply.

The children had a surprise for us. When we arrived they were waiting for us in front of the school in a big group with a wonderful bouquet and sang a greeting song for us. It was a very touching moment. Then they presented us with the well (and its operation) which is in a closed place and they are guarding it.

Children in Ethiopia pump water from a well

© Judit Kocsis

Child drinks from a well in Ethiopia

© Judit Kocsis

This well is very useful, because it makes their lives so much easier. Before they had it, the women and girls used to have to walk many kilometers to find fresh water, and they had to walk barefoot in a stream, so they often cut their feet on the rocks. Now the well is close to their homes.

A child pumps water from a well

© Judit Kocsis

Each family donates 1 birr ( =13 HUF, = 0,04 EUR) a month and it’s put into a bank account, which they manage, in case of problems. The well is 13 m deep and gives fresh and clean water to 40 families (on average there are seven members in a family) so it serves 280 people.

After that we visited a traditional house and household. This was very pretty. It has a living- and bedroom together. Children sleep in the living room, parents sleep on the loft and in the house is a separate room for sheep. The kitchen is in a separate building. In the kitchen a woman brought out some cotton which is used for making clothes and bags. Anita and Sara tried to spin it. It was very funny, because only Sara could do it the right way. The toilet is separate too, and they can wash their hands there. This is a very big thing, because they couldn’t do it before.

Two women in Ethiopia

© Judit Kocsis

Sara learns to spin cotton

© Judit Kocsis

A woman shows a string of cotton

© Judit Kocsis

At the end of the visit the local people entertained us for a picnic and we had an opportunity to taste some kind of beans and seeds. They made us a traditional local food (named fir-fir) which is Katrina’s favorite Ethiopian food: bread (which is rather like a pancake, but the batter is lighter) with a vegetable puree. This has an interesting taste. The bread is a little sour and the puree is very hot. I didn’t like it very much because I don’t like spicy foods. And they made for us a very tasty coffee.

A woman serves injera bread

© Judit Kocsis

A woman with dried beans

© Judit Kocsis

Children at a picnic in Ethiopia

© Judit Kocsis


Visitors eat lunch with a community in Ethiopia

© Judit Kocsis

About Judit Kocsis

I'm working as a shop assistant in the children, family and bedroom department. I'm studying art, film history and film theory at college. I will graduate this year. In my free time I take photos and make films. These are my main hobbies, but I like to read books and watch movies also.