When I was selected as an IWitness ambassador to represent my store, IKEA Delft in the Netherlands, I remember I said to myself: be prepared to expect the unexpected! I thought it would be emotional and intense, but experiencing it in reality was different from what I had expected and imagined…
Early morning. It is time to make a visit to schools and see the impact of our Good Cause campaign. Room to Read has set up school libraries in Sidoarjo, in the surroundings of Surabaya, Indonesia, where only 5% of all schools have school libraries.
I just could not believe that in the 21st century there are many poor communities that struggle to provide books for the majority of their primary schools!
But here we are: a group of “privileged guests” from IKEA, from far away. We were overwhelmed by a warm welcome and an impressive performance, especially prepared and organised for us with a lot of passion and energy. We were touched by the hospitality of the teachers, principals, parents (even grandparents) of the children, all present authorities of the Educational Institutions, and also by inhabitants in this neighbourhood who came out into the streets and greeted us.
We were asked to dance all together with the children, we were asked to pose for selfies, so each of us made at least 100 selfies. We simply had the feeling that we were SUPERSTARS!
But actually, it was an event, a place full of bright shining stars:
– Children shining with happiness to host us and showing their gratitude for having a library; shining so that they could have the world’s attention. At a certain moment you see shy but also curious faces that secretly look at you with their beautiful eyes; then you see smiling children waving through the open window and trying to get our attention with a few simple words in English; or children reading books together with us; or looking into our pictures that we brought with us to let them see our family, our life in our country.
– Shining proud school staff explaining to us how much they appreciate that they have been given a school library with the help of the IKEA Foundation and Room to Read, and that a movement has started to give young children an interest in books, which can have a huge influence on their future.
– Parents who can talk to us and tell their part of the “library” story, a library that will become a pleasurable meeting place not only for children but also for mothers.
I know that we started with baby steps and we further need to invest to make this situation sustainable. Reading should not only be a habit but should be a culture. However, we are on the right track and we are making progress by offering them the world of books.
I wish we could give them more. I want to feel them sparkling with life and to always remember: “Life is a stage. And the stage is yours!”