Jordan: Let’s Play for Change campaign helps kids simply be kids

On 28 July 2012 I stepped down from a bus carrying Syrian refugees from border checkpoints to discover that we had arrived at a conspicuous white tent in the middle of an empty desert. When I first arrived at Za’atari refugee camp, I remember seeing no more than 50 people huddled under that tent, disoriented, afraid and unsure of what the future would bring.

Although they all faced similar hardships, each had a unique story to tell.  That day I met a tailor, his wife and three daughters. They had arrived carrying only the few belongings they could pack in the midst of a bombing raid. I met a young man dressed in stylish cosmopolitan clothes, who had come all the way from Damascus, fleeing from the government security forces that threatened him after he posted anti-government sentiments on Facebook. And I will never forget the woman who arrived weeping and inconsolable, clutching a framed photograph of her child.

Five years later, Za’atari camp is home to 80,000 Syrian refugees and has become the fourth largest city in Jordan. Over 660,000 registered refugees have crossed the border, all having lost their homes, belongings, livelihoods, communities and, very often, members of their family in the violence. Although many settled in Za’atari the majority—nearly 80%—settled outside the camp, in urban areas across Jordan.

Since that day I have worked on projects aiming to provide Syrian refugee children with emergency education and psychosocial support to promote their healthy development and resilience. During my time working with children, I have heard them tell stories of violence, death and terror; things that would unhinge any adult, much less a child. But I have also seen stories of hope. The mother who refuses to let her children give up on their education. The teacher who gathers the neighbourhood children in her caravan for math and Arabic lessons. The doctor who gives free treatment to his compatriots.

During my five years working in Jordan, the most rewarding project for me has been War Child’s Time to Be a Child project, thanks to the support of the IKEA Foundation and the Let’s Play for Change campaign. The project’s comprehensive approach allows us to target children, parents and communities in a unified programme. It aims to provide children with safe communities that promote their healthy development and resilience, focusing on early childhood care and development, psychosocial support, recreational activities and youth engagement. It also helps foster safe communities for children by providing parenting skills and psychosocial support for caregivers, as well as community-based child protection.

In October 2017, an IKEA Poland IWitness team will arrive in Jordan to see for themselves how the Time to Be a Child project has impacted the lives of thousands of Syrian and vulnerable Jordanian families across the Kingdom. My hope is that they will not only hear the stories of devastation and sadness but will come away with a sense of hope and encouragement that this project is giving children the opportunity to learn, develop, play…and simply be kids.




An evening to remember at the Nansen Refugee Award #WithRefugees

In June 1921, the Council of the League of Nations, spurred by the Red Cross and other organisations, instituted its High Commission for Refugees and asked Fridtjof Nansen to administer it. As UNHCR’s first High Commissioner, he accomplished memorable achievements.

In 1922, Nansen was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work on behalf of people displaced by the First World War and related conflicts.

The Nansen Refugee Award, named after this diplomat, explorer and great humanitarian, was established in 1954 to recognise extraordinary service given to those forcibly displaced by war and persecution.

This year, I had the privilege to attend the Nansen Award ceremony on behalf of the IKEA Foundation, together with some colleagues, and special invitees from IKEA retailers, who also supported refugees by training them and harnessing their talent.

The ceremony started in the impressive Bâtiment des Forces Motrices in Geneva. This 19th century factory, that delivered pressurised water from the river Rhône to the city of Geneva, was converted a century later to the magnificent theatre we were about to visit!

The evening was full of surprises: from Anita Rani, the BBC presenter who kept the momentum going throughout the evening, to Mariela Shaker, a Syrian refugee who created magic playing her violin accompanied by her fiancé playing the piano. We also had a chance to hear from Nujeen Mustafa, the incredible advocate for refugee youth who, despite her disability due to cerebral palsy, fled Syria with her sister and not only managed to get a normal life and education but is today “the human face of dehumanised crisis,” according to UNHCR.

The highlight of the evening was, of course, the Nansen Award winner himself, Mr Zannah Mustapha.

Mr Mustapha, a lawyer and mediator, was given the award in recognition of his efforts to improve the living conditions of widows and children who suffered due to the violence inflicted by Boko Haram in Northern Nigeria. In this extremely dangerous environment, Mr Mustapha founded The Future Prowess Islamic Foundation School for displaced children and other vulnerable children in Maiduguri in 2007. Today, this school provides free education and lunch for 540 pupils and there is a waiting list of more than 2,000!

It was amazing listening to the stories Mr Mustapha shared with us: how the school curriculum was decided together with the Boko Haram widows, how he failed at his first attempt to mediate between Boko Haram and the Nigerian government but his conviction led him to take a mediation training course in Geneva where he got the basic skills needed for his second, successful, attempt! Using education as his only weapon he managed to bring a glimmer of hope to the devastated villages in Northern Nigeria.

For all of us not speaking the local language, it is worth noting that Boko Haram stands for “No Western Education,” which puts Mr Mustapha’s efforts into perspective.

Enjoying some good food and drinks after the presentations, I reflected on Mr Mustapha’s last words: “Since the age of 22, after I finished law school, I was committed to do something to help humanity.” And you sure did, Mr Mustapha…it was an honour meeting you!!!

Myself and Patricia Atkinson, Head of Programmes at the IKEA Foundation, enjoying the Nansen Refugee Award evening.

Fabulous at 500: IWitness Global Citizen programme reaches target

The IKEA Foundation is celebrating the fact that 500 co-workers have taken part in IWitness trips to see the work it funds in action!

IWitness achieved its 2020 target, set jointly with IKEA’s People and Planet Positive strategy, when a group of co-workers from the UK and Ireland visited a Save the Children programme in Vietnam in September this year.

All the co-workers who have taken part in IWitness trips have seen for themselves the the difference the IKEA Foundations partners are making. In connection to the Good Cause Campaigns the programmes have supported educations programmes, the living situation for refugees and promoted children’s right to play. Through their blogs they have helped inspire their fellow co-workers to get behind these campaigns.

“The trip made me see the impact of the work that Save the Children are doing with the support of IKEA Foundation to empower children and those around them to prevent child abuse, we may not be able to eradicate it but we can raise awareness amongst the many people.

Martin Luther King once said “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”

This is what I see the work being done by the Save the Children team.  This is not about giving a bit of funding to build only a school – it is to build spirits, to build confidence, this is changing mindsets that children are important but we need to give them the love, encouragement and safety to develop into well balanced adults; invest in them today so they create a better tomorrow.” Nuzhad Chagan, Marketing, IKEA UK & IE.

Between 2012 when the programme was launched, and the end of 2017:

  • 542 co-workers will have been on 82 IWitness trips
  • 36 IKEA countries will have sent co-workers to 24 destination countries

Applications are currently open for IWitness 2018. Co-workers will either visit projects supported by previous Good Cause campaigns (Soft Toys for Education and Brighter Lives for Refugees) or those funded by the new campaign, Let’s Play for Change.

They then share their experiences on the IWitness blog, helping inspire and motivate all co-workers to make upcoming Good Cause campaigns a huge success.

“The IWitness opportunity is an amazing way for co-workers from across stores and functions to come together and experience something really life changing.  The opportunity not only makes them incredibly proud to work for IKEA but also builds up a number of different skills that can be applied to their daily roles.  The IWitness trip embodies a true sense of togetherness- as ambassadors often build lifelong friendships with their travel companions!” Hiliary Jenkins, People & Communities Leader, IKEA UK & IE.

If you are an IKEA co-worker interested in going on a trip, please contact your store manager.

For more information email:


Jars of hope in western Thailand

“Sawasdee, Ka!” It was the first word that I heard when the IWitness team from IKEA Indonesia arrived in Bangkok, which means “Hello”. The weather was nice for us as we continued our trip to Mae Sot. We spent our days at the temporary shelters in Umpiem and Mae La managed, among others, by Handicap International. It was an eye-opening experience, for me as well as the other IWitness team members. We engaged with the children by singing, dancing, making crafts and playing games together. They were so happy and energized. Well, I believe that no one wants to be born in a refugee camp but it doesn’t stop their desire to keep learning and playing.

The children were laughing together while playing a “musical chairs” game. Photo by Sylvania Octaria Sinulingga.

Mae La is the biggest camp in Thailand. It has more than 40,000 refugees and is divided into three zones; zone A, zone B and C. The road is much more accessible and is around 45 minutes’ drive from Mae Sot. Unlike Umpiem, Mae La is larger and more densely populated with more young people. There are 52 schools in the camp. We can find so many different organisations, which provide different services to the refugees.

Friday 6 October 2017 was our last day to directly witness their daily life in Mae La camp. We had some activities, such as visiting the Assistive Technology Workshop and having a short discussion in the Community Rehabilitation Centre. In the afternoon we also got the opportunity to meet people from Right to Play, which is also one of the IKEA Foundation’s partners.

Being a barber in the middle of jungle. Photo by Mahargian Maulidi.

We spent an hour in the Assistive Technology Workshop provided by Handicap International. The workshop is a big room divided into several small rooms for prosthetics-making, and a bigger room with a mini ramp for the patients to exercise and get used to wearing their new prostheses. It takes about one month for a new patient to get used to a new prosthesis. The youngest patient is sixteen years old.

This Assistive Technology Workshop aims to provide people with disabilities with assistive devices in order to support them in doing their daily activities—such as prosthetics, wheelchairs, stretchers etc. Everybody who needs assistive devices is welcome to get the devices, based on their physical problem, for free. Many have lost their legs caused by landmines, in addition to diabetic conditions.

The smile man during the sharing. Photo by Mahargian Maulidi.

I met Chit Tway, one of the landmine victims. He has been using a prosthetic leg for almost fifteen years. He lost his right leg, making him unable to walk. At the beginning, his leg hurt when he put on the prosthetic leg but, as he got used to it, he felt comfortable afterwards. He also cleans it with water once in a month. By using his prosthetic leg, he is now able to walk properly again and no longer relies on others for his daily needs. Despite their conditions, the people we met seemed happy and sometimes had jokes with each other about their legs.

Chit Tway demonstrates how to use the prosthetic leg. Photo by Mahargian Maulidi.

The material used for making the prosthetic limbs is resin. The resin mostly comes from Mae Sot and Cambodia. It takes about five days to make one prosthesis, depending which part of the body is needed for. Handicap International has five staff who are able to make them. There are several steps including assessment, measurement, casting, constructing limbs, lining, fitting, forming and cap aligning.

After the prostheses have been dried and are ready to wear, the patient can do the walking test on the mini ramp provided in the workshop area. Since they have done the assessment and measurement at the beginning, the prosthesesshould fit on their legs. The prosthetic limbs should be maintained well. They should check them in the workshop once in every three months. They need to regularly change the rubber foot and belt, once in a year.

One of the Handicap International staff explains the process of prosthetic making. Photo by Mahargian Maulidi.

Near the workshop, there is a Community Rehabilitation Centre, which is also supported and provided by Handicap International. Every Wednesday and Friday, some people are invited to come to a small exercise session for half an hour. The exercise that they had is hand movement. They were asked to grasp a material like clay, to train and strengthen their palm and muscles.

A woman enjoys her therapy. Photo by Mahargian Maulidi.

After visiting the Community Rehabilitation Centre, the team had the chance to walk around the camp. There is a small river nearby where the refugees bathe and wash their clothes. There, we could see children playing happily while, on the other side, there were also motocycles trying to cross the river. On the other side ot the river, we found a school with its dormitory and a library. We also met two women bringing a basket on their head and going around the camp to sell noodles, vegetables and others.

The women are selling food around the camp. Photo by Mahargian Maulidi.

Our last session of the day was  fun and interesting activities with Right to Play, which was hosted by Katerina and Vanessa. Though Right to Play is not a part of the Let’s Play for Change campaign, it has partnered with the IKEA Foundation for three years and its first project is in Ethiopia. We spent time with them by visiting their office, playing volleyball with physical exercise (PE) teachers, playing football with the children and visiting their boarding house in zone A. Right to Play has its own tagline: “When the children play, the world wins.”

Right to Play car. Photo by Mahargian Maulidi.

We had a small introduction with the Right to Play team at their office. After that, we headed to OCEE (Office of Camp Education Entity) where the physical exercise teachers were practising basketball and volleyball. The PE teachers are expected to invite the children and adults to play some sports in school and their homes.

The IWitness team played volleyball with the PE teachers. Photo by Mahargian Maulidi.

Having finished playing volleyball with the PE teachers, we went back to the Right to Play office. There is a huge space for the children to do some sports. We were divided into three different groups and participated in the games with the children. They looked so excited and happy.

The children are having a cooling down session. Photo by Anissah Rahmalia.

The last activity was visiting a boarding house, which is located in zone A. There are around forty students in the boarding house, starting from elementary up to senior high school students. We had a chance to participate in a ball game with the children, in which it required teamwork and communication among the participants, in order to develop their social, cognitive, emotional and physical skills.

Children enjoying one of the activities at the boarding house. Photo by Mahargian Maulidi.

At the end of every session, they have a summary session which covers Reflection (R), Connection (C) and Application (A). Reflection (R) aims to see how the communication works among the players. Connection (C) relates their experiences to the communication issue. Lastly, Application (A), enables them to apply how to communicate well in their daily life.

Showing teamwork among the students. Photo by Claudia Yessie Dewi Sekartaji.

This trip gave me a life-changing experience, and it was totally amazing. Current problems that we are having are nothing compared to the life that the refugees need to face everyday. They still can be grateful and thankful for everything that they have right now. Their life is filled with joy, smiles and bursts of happiness; though for some of them, they no longer know where their families are. Most importantly, they still have hopes to get a better quality of life by having education to pursue their dreams. The world must know and support this land of smiles.


Growing Together with the children of one of the oldest refugees camps in the world

Today is the second day of the IKEA Indonesia IWitness team’s visit to Mae Sot, Thailand. We spent the day in Umpiem Camp, one of nine refugee camps in Thailand. Umpiem Camp is the second biggest refugee camp in Thailand, with population of 11,606 people, mostly Karen and Burmese. We are co-ordinating this visit with our friends in Handicap International (HI). The lovely HI team—Alexey, Jodie and Diana—picked us up at 8am at the hotel to go to Umpiem camp. The trip to the camp took us almost two hours’ drive. Views of beautiful calming mountains and green hills amazed us along the road. We had no traffic but it was such a meandering road.

View on the way to Umpiem Camp. Photo by Sylvania Octaria Sinulingga.

The first thing we did was register ourselves at Umpiem Camp checkpoint. After registering, we continued to drive up to the hill where the HI office is located. We were introduced to Art, the Project Officer, and the other HI staff.

The HI team presented information about their project in three different countries; Bangladesh, Thailand and Pakistan. They are doing the Growing Together project, that started on 1 June 2016 and will end on 31 May 2020 (48 months), supported by the IKEA Foundation through the Let’s Play for Change campaign. Their main objectives are to support communities in raising socially and emotionally healthy kids, both in the camps and the host communities. Moreover, they want to create opportunities for children with disabilities and other vulnerable children, aged from 0 to 12, to learn and develop safely while also having fun with using “play” as the key driver.

With children of Umpiem Camp. Photo by Maryam Jamila.

After the presentation, we had the chance to take a look around the camp with Phoung Noon and Lah Doh, the HI staff at the camp. Rain and a slippery road did not discourage our enthusiasm to continue our journey. Lah Doh informed us about some facilitation they have in the camp. Some NGOs provide training, school staff and medical staff. Umpiem camp doesn’t have a hospital but a doctor from Mae Sot visits the camp two to three times per week. Common diseases that the refugees are prone to are dengue fever and diarrhoea, because of the water, the environment and the food.

View at the Umpiem Camp. Photo by Mahargian Maulidi.

Houses at Umpiem Camp. Photo by Mahargian Maulidi.

We continued our trip by having a toy-making workshop with some children who are not yet in school, along with their parents, at the camp. The children were so shy at first but after the ice-breaking session, they started to have some fun and relax. We were so grateful and happy to see the excitement and happy faces of the children when we did the workshop. Their happy faces definitely faded our exhaustion away!

Toy-making workshop. Photo by Lucas Veuve.

On our second day at Umpiem Camp, we presented some activities for the children who study at school. We started with an introduction, and we had some fun dancing with the kids with a really catchy song, the Baby Shark song. Everybody had a lot of fun.

We did a fun game before lunch, a guessing game, as well as another group game where I learned a Karen children song!

Art presented and informed us about disability, with help from Anggi, the HI representative from Indonesia. We learned that a person with a disability faces a ten times bigger challenge and risk in their daily life. We had a chance to experience what it is like to be a person with a disability by doing a roleplay with various types disabilities. It really opened my eyes to know how hard it is. And I really respect them for how strong they are to live their life.

Our last session of the day was home visit to Win Thein’s home, a 61-year-old man who lives in Zone A at the camp. We were accompanied by Eh Htoo Say from HI and Saw Plosay, our Karen translator. Win Thein lives with one son, one grandson and one granddaughter. His other children live in Bangkok to work, and visit him once in every two years at the camp. Win Thein has a problem with the right side of his body and he has barely been able to use his right arm for six years. He couldn’t walk normally, because he has different foot length. It makes him stay at home for most of the time. HI helps him by providing some equipment for him to use for his physical therapy at home.

Win Thein on his bed. Photo by Maryam Jamila.

Win Thein’s house. Photo by Claudia Yessie Sekartaji.

We spent our third day at Mae La Camp, the biggest refugee camp in Thailand. The camp is closer than Umpiem Camp; the view on our way to it was breath-taking and it was more accessible without so many winding roads.

When we arrived at Mae La Camp checkpoint, the pre-inspection was more detailed. We continued our trip and walked for a while to the HI office inside the camp, because it is not accessible by car.

Mae La Camp has better facilities than the other camp. In the HI office, they provide some toys and also a trampoline for the children to play on. We met more children here, and we were surprised that the children are really active and have great initiatives. We spent the day by doing some Baby Shark dances, colouring activities, and we also played an Indonesian traditional game, ‘Put the Pencil in the Bottle’, in addition to making paper origami. We had fun and a really good day.

Children playing ‘Put the Pencil in the Bottle’ game. Photo by Mahargian Maulidi.

Colouring activity at Mae La Camp. Photo by Mahargian Maulidi.

It was a pleasure and I am so grateful to have had a chance to experience this amazing trip with IWitness, the IKEA Foundation and the Handicap International team. It was a life-changing experience: it opened my eyes to have more awareness about people with disabilities, and also people in need, especially children. Thanks IKEA!

Steps for a greater cause in Mae Sot

In Mae Sot, Handicap International (HI) provides assistance mainly to children with disabilities. Although there are many NGOs (around 14) that exist in Mae Sot, HI is the only NGO which focuses on supporting children with disabilities.

Handicap International Thailand (left), IWitness team, IKEA Foundation (right) and Handicap International Indonesia (below right). By Mahargian Maulidi.

Eight of us departed from Bangkok that day. Six people were IWitnesses from different divisions at IKEA Indonesia. We met Chris Williams (IKEA Foundation Communication Manager) and Anggiasari Puji (HI Indonesia) in Bangkok the day before. We were excited to start the trip soon.

It was raining very hard in Bangkok on 2 October and we felt a bit nervous before the flight. The plane departed on time at 14.30 and arrived at Mae Sot Airport at 15.47. There was some turbulence during the flight, however we landed safely in Mae Sot.

Arriving at Mae Sot Airport, the weather was nice and welcoming. Alex (HI Manager for Growing Together) picked us up with three 4×4 cars that belong to HI. It was a great welcoming gesture from HI; we were very excited and felt safe right away.

We drove through the city and went straight to the HI office in Mae Sot. There, we were greeted by Almedina (HI Country Manager), who was very nice and warm. We had introduction session where Almedina shared information with us on HI activities in Thailand. After the session with Almedina, she and Alex took us for a walk around the office. We were introduced to HI staff, who have mostly been working there for years. We are amazed with how much HI has done so far and with all the future plans that are still coming.

After the session with HI, we went to the hotel and at 19.00 we had dinner together with Alex. At the hotel we met Wendy Huyghe (HI Communications for Growing Together) and Lucas Veuve (HI Photographer) and we had nice dinner in a Thai restaurant, which provided great food.

GROWING TOGETHER project. By Sylvania Octaria Sinulingga.

HI has been in Mae Sot, Thailand for 35 years now. Starting its operation in 1982, from two French doctors, HI had the first establishment in Thailand to assist Cambodian refugees.

In 1984, the organisation extended its support to the Karen refugees who fled from Myanmar due to long-running conflicts. In search for peace and chance to live, they left Myanmar and looked for better chances in Thailand.

The Thai government accepted the presence of the Karen people and has housed them in temporary shelters in several locations along the border between Myanmar and Thailand. But there is restricted mobility applied to Karen people, as they are not allowed to go outside the camp except in special cases, when they have a reference or recommendation from the NGOs.

There are nine refugee camps operating along the border. The furthest camp takes eight hours on road by car from Mae Sot (HI Thailand head office).

Why Handicap International?

Out of the many NGOs operating in Mae Sot, only HI is facilitating assistance to children with disabilities. The mission of the IKEA Foundation is to create change by funding a programme that addresses children’s fundamental needs: home, health, education and a sustainable family income.

In line with their mission, the IKEA Foundation supports HI, which now is working to provide Early Childhood Development opportunities to children with disabilities and other vulnerable children in camps for refugees and internally displaced people. HI is making sure that children will get the access to the very thing they need: the right to play!

HI has improved the quality of life of the children by rehabilitation, mine risk education and disability social inclusion.

And now, since 2016 with the support from the IKEA Foundation, the Growing Together project will develop an accessible and secure environment for children in refugee camps in Bangladesh, Thailand and Pakistan.

One important fact that I took during this meeting with HI: years ago, many people became disabled due to impact of land mines. Today, children have disabilities due to malnutrition and live in environments where sanitary conditions, foods and water are at a very low level. This is where HI’s presence is important to children in the camp. HI can improve the quality of life for children with disabilities.

I personally hope that the Growing Together project will come as a very succesful project and realized impact. I foresee that children with disabilities will be smiling and happy, as they feel there is a lot more that they can do in life than before.

Handicap International vehicle. By Mahargian Maulidi.

Handicap International vehicles were funded by the Let’s Play for Change campaign

An invitation to play from Handicap International

My name is Cheryl Shin-Hua Yeam and I work for Handicap International. I consider myself a citizen of the world—one who was born in Canada, raised by Chinese-Malaysian immigrant parents, who currently lives in Maesot, Thailand (where you will soon go!)

As a citizen of the world, I enjoy doing things all over the world—including dancing, singing, playing the ukulele, trying new foods and, importantly, working with disadvantaged children from various walks of life.

Mae La refugee camp context. Umbrella’s are a much needed item: it protects them from the sun and the rain.  Photo by Handicap International.

I’m looking forward to meeting you all, co-workers from IKEA Indonesia, and I’ll be happy to tell you more about myself and my work. I can already say that I am the Regional Technical Coordinator for Handicap International’s Growing Together Project, supported by the IKEA Foundation. What does that mean? It means my main role is to care about the quality of our project. Part of this involves inspiring and enabling others to be creative, innovative and effective in using inclusive play and inclusive arts to improve children’s lives, learning and opportunities.

I do this job because I believe in social justice, in children’s rights to participate as active members of society, and in children’s rights to play—no matter what their background or disadvantaged circumstances. I keep doing this because children continue to show me how resilient they can be in the face of poverty, war and exclusion. You will spend four days in refugee camps along the border with Myanmar, and I hope you will share my respect for the resilience of people living there, and especially the children.

You are supporting Handicap International’s Growing Together Project through the campaign. I hope the IWitness visit can convince you of the importance of this project. After all, life is about more than just survival and meeting our basic needs. What gives greater meaning to life is connecting with other humans, a sense of belonging and realizing one’s potential. One important way to gain those three things is through play and the arts. And this is exactly what the Growing Together Project is about.

Mae La refugee camp. Portrait of children. Photo by Handicap International.

We use inclusive play and arts-based methods to build a sense of cohesion and belonging within communities, and to help disadvantaged children learn, grow and develop through play and discovering and building their own craft. This could be dance, drawing, photography, toy making or the art of storytelling. We play with a purpose—for example using play and arts to monitor our project, or to teach children about their right to protection from violence.

Not only does play help children to learn and develop physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually but it is a right, unfortunately, that is often undermined. This gives the work of the Growing Together Project even more importance.

Saw (12) and his brother Kyan (4, cerebral palsy) are inseparable. Saw dropped out of school to take care of his brother. A big responsibility, he has no opportunity to play. One exception: at HI’s rehabilitation center when Kyan does his exercises. Saw feeds they boy and helps him with his exercises at home. He’s afraid to walk around with him, because the camp is not accessible for children with disabilities.  Photo by Handicap International.

Needless to say, we will invite you to play during this IWitness trip! The experience will be what you make of it, and what you put into it, so it will be different for everyone. But you can expect to meet wonderful people, participate in creative activities with adults and children from the communities in which we work, and have an eye-opening experience that will broaden your perspectives about life.

Watch this short video to give an overview of the programme:

Taking giant steps in highlighting children’s rights is what IKEA Foundation and Save the Children are driving in Vietnam

Our day starts off in the bustling Ho Chi Minh City, where even an early start means the tooting of scooters zooming in and out of the traffic coupled with the taxis and cars.

We headed to two schools in the rural areas of Cu Chi District, both focusing on highlighting children’s rights amongst teachers, children and parents. The amazing aspect of these initiatives is seeing the great engagement from the children who, even from a young age, understand their rights and that they are also responsible to stand up for themselves.

The first school, Phuoc Hiep Primary School, has 830 students—many of whom come from the local farming area. They are in Phase 1 of Save the Children’s programme to create stronger relationships between the triad of teacher, parent and child to bring about changes related to corporal punishment and child abuse. The school will continue into Phase 2 between 2017 and 2019. The most significant contribution of the programme is influencing is the education policy of the school, which has been adjusted to be in line with children’s rights. They have made big strides in training teachers on child protection for poor children and child rights awareness activities.

We spent time with the children, doing activities like decorating and playing various games, in between the warm smiles, sparkling personalities and genuine happiness to welcome us.

The second school we visited was An Nhon Tay secondary school, where the focus was on communication methods to promote children’s rights, what corporal punishment really means and how it is interpreted. The highlight was witnessing the signing of the triad commitment where the teachers, students and parents sign a big poster, which gets hung in the classroom as a reminder of their commitment.

The impact of the programme in this school can be seen in the passion of the teachers and the bringing together of people to make positive movement. The creativity is quite moving and emotional to see; how the talent in the school provides an opportunity to progress the child rights programme. The activities will be moved forward through parent meetings and various semester meetings, to ensure the message is repeated to raise awareness.

The highlight of the day was participating in a food fair where students are raising money for their peers who are in challenging circumstances. The event raised 10 million Vietnamese dong (around €375), which will kick-start the fundraising to help students who have been identified as living well below poverty levels. The activity also teaches students to look out for one another.

The evening finished in true Vietnamese spirit, with a mid-autumn festival event. The dancing moon goddess dazzled us, whilst the dragons danced in sync keeping us entertained and glued to their superb performance. Three hundred children from poorer families were also gifted with food parcels, all supported through the IKEA Foundation. The sweet finale was the lantern ceremony, nicely ending what can only be described as an energetic and soul-enriching day.

Children’s rights awareness, covering corporate punishment and the prevention of all forms of abuse against children, is well on its way through the existing programmes. There is so much genuine energy from the staff delivering these programmes from Save the Children, with the support of the IKEA Foundation, without which none of these amazing impacts would be possible.

We leave Vietnam with such a sense of hope and excitement for the next chapter and in the words of one of the principals we met today. “I hope that you will continue to remember the Vietnamese children but that one day these very children make positive impacts that help you all.”

cảm ơn bạn


The Tale of the IWitness Team Meeting and the Birth of GOSIG GOLDEN and his friends

After two intense and emotional days, where we have been meeting many happy, curious and very friendly children, we went to meet some other friends: GOSIG GOLDEN, VANDRING UGGLA, LILLEPLUTT, KNORRIG, KELGRIS, KRAMIG, HEMMAHOS (to help us keep the time, something we have noticed is a development area for most of us) and not to forget our best friend, FABLER BJÖRN. We went to the place where they all have first seen the light of day—the Soft Toy factory in Ho Chi Minh City.

We were all very excited to see how those lovely friends take their first steps into the world. Who takes care of them in their creation? How is it all done? And how do we at IKEA secure a better everyday life for the many people in the factory that are producing the soft toys that, in the end, will be the best friend of a child?

We arrived to the Danu factory in the morning and were warmly welcomed (and not just because it was really, really warm this day) by the team that was going to show us the factory, led by by Huong Nguyen Hoai, Business Development Manager at the IKEA Trading Service Office in Ho Chi Minh City.

When we entered the site, the team immediately noticed the iWay signs on the wall of the factory—and we all felt very proud to see what an impact IKEA and iWay have across the globe.

We learned that this factory is on level 2 (of 3) in the iWay staircase model—meaning that they are more than 90% compliant with the iWay audits.

This factory was established in 1996 and was the first Duna factory in Vietnam. In 1998, they started to produce soft toys for IKEA—so we will soon have more than 20 years of history together.

The factory has 1,600 employees, 90% of whom are women. The working week is 48 hours over a six-day week. Young workers (15-18 years) make up less than 1% of the co-workers and the factory is following decent employment standards, meaning they work no more than eight hours a day and not more than 40 hours a week. Every six months, they get health checks.

The factory is the supplier of soft toys to between 30 and 40 customers, where IKEA stands for 50% of the production. So, in this way, IKEA paves the way in being a good example for the other suppliers of better working environment standards. Since the entire factory is following the iWay programme, hopefully the other customers get influenced by IKEA iWay.

After the introduction in one of the showrooms (filled with soft toys) we were guided through the factory. It was amazing to see each step in the making of a soft toy, especially when we know them so well. We saw the fabric coming into the factory with trucks, spotting a lot of pink fabric for KNORRIG offloaded from the truck. We then had a view of the cutting process, where we found GOSIG GOLDEN to be shaped in the machines.

Then we had a walk through the sewing area, where we saw our friends start to get more in shape—and FABLER BJÖRN getting his T-shirt on. And there were a lot of sewing machines. The factory has focused on increasing the quality, not just of the final product, but of the working environment, such as improving needle control to create a safer working environment for the co-workers.

Moving over to the mounting, stuffing and testing area, we (I)Witnessed KRAMIG being dragged in its ears in the tension test to make sure the children can cuddle with the toy as much as they want to without any risk that parts of the toy will fall off.

We experienced the very noisy room (not so noisy if you have your ear plugs in) where KNORRIG got stuffed to be really cosy and look like he has had plenty of good food to eat.

Almost ready for the world, with just the final touch of finishing, GOSIG GOLDEN needed to be brushed and have his nails cut before the long trip to a child’s home.

Finally, we followed GOSIG GOLDEN pass through the metal control to then join his friend KRAMIG in the big brown boxes for the travel to an IKEA unit.

We concluded the day to be again very proud and humble for all the good work IKEA do for the many people. IKEA has not any retail business in Vietnam, but are present and contributing to the society and the people living here. It is creating jobs in the factory with the iWay standards, which then produce soft toys, which give happiness to a lot of children around the globe. e, and is also a part of the Good Cause Campaign, which helps the most vulnerable children around the world have access to an education and a safe place to play.

Which is the purpose of our trip to Ho Chi Minh City. To IWitness.

The circle is closed.

And to get an even better picture of how the toys are developed in the Dana Factory, please have a look at the Hippo-Crocodile’s tale here.