IKEA visits 'Schools for Africa' program
IKEA continues to be UNICEF's largest global corporate cash donor, providing significant support for UNICEF's education programs, including UNICEF's Schools for Africa program. Following the 2011 soft toy and greeting card campaign, two IKEA co-workers from top performing IKEA stores in the United States were selected to travel to see UNICEF's programs and the impact of IKEA's donations for children firsthand. These co-workers - Andrea Sorensen and Deandrea Flick - are wrapping-up their exciting one week trip to South Africa.
On Tuesday we traveled to some schools that are actually receiving funds from the UNICEF/IKEA partnership. It was great to see exactly where all of our hard work is going! I want you to know first-hand that the schools are deserving and more than grateful. Every place we went, we were greeted by a procession of dancers, singers and community members who came from all over just to see us. They chased the van and clapped. It was the most wonderful sight. I felt so loved! Like this was my home and these were my friends!
|Dee and I getting off the tiniest plane we've been in.|
We traveled to some schools and met the educators, principals and students. They showed us a range of things they had learned and expressed that without help from the UNICEF organization this would not be possible.
I am lucky and happy to work for a company who devotes time and money to causes such as these. The children read poems, danced, sang (my FAVORITE part) and read a story or two. The "itty bitties" as I like to call them... that is the smaller children, they actually read to us and I cried a little each time.
We take literacy for granted and it is a beautiful gift to have books. "The learners" (that's what they call the students here) are so proud of their new materials and new found knowledge. As they should be.... they are doing wonderfully! They even treat their classroom as a magical place (based on the "Magic Classroom" models that their schools are involved with)... they take their shoes off outside before they come in to keep the rooms neat.
Dee and I also had the chance to learn some local language. I think we did alright. The students could actually understand us!
|Some of the learners.|
We then traveled to the Nelson Mandela Institute, which partners with UNICEF to help bring training to both teachers and students. They also provide camps for the learners so that they can grow.
We had a very long drive back to our hotel through a very rural area. Along the way there were multiple houses and some of our UNICEF friends told us about history and culture. We saw people carrying water buckets on their heads down the highways to their homes. It was just unreal! This part of South Africa.... it is RURAL.... most houses have no running water. And some just received electricity a few years ago.
As partners with UNICEF, we have come a long way...and while the learners are growing and the school and programs are benefiting...there is much that remains to be done. And the soft toy campaign is going to be a great way for us to do more! I hope you are all getting excited. I know Deandrea and I are!