Nine-year-old Jeni lives with her grandmother and uncle in northern Albania. Their home is cobbled together from bits of tins, with a tarp across the opening for a front door. There’s a light bulb, a small old stove for heating and cooking meager meals, but no running water.
“We’ve no choice; we must beg to be able to eat,” says Jeni’s grandmother. Jeni doesn’t complain, but hopes that when she grows up and finishes school she can be a hairdresser or teacher. She likes playing and drawing and is particularly pleased to do both at the “Socio-Educative Center for Integration” supported by Save the Children, with funds raised during the IKEA Foundation’s annual Soft Toys for Education campaign in IKEA stores worldwide.
During the campaign, for every soft toy sold, the IKEA Foundation donates 1 euro to education efforts like this, to help reach some of the world’s most disadvantaged children.
My loving school
Jeni calls the center “My loving school.” The center has enabled Jeni, and many other children, to enjoy education classes, recreational activities, sports, and fun events. It’s designed to support the most vulnerable children who, because of their poverty, often experience exclusion, abuse, and discrimination.
Since joining the centre, Jeni’s knowledge and behavior have changed dramatically. Two years ago, she could only count to ten, her hygiene was neglected, she was inattentive and sometimes bullied her classmates – her only friends were older boys, and she wasn’t afraid to fight with them. Today, Jeni reads and writes the alphabet, does addition and subtraction, and knows geometric shapes. She recently got the highest scores on her ABC’s and math, and says with pride, “I like math and like to be top of the class.”
The centre’s social worker says, “It is heartbreaking to live under the severe conditions of extreme poverty, like Jeni and her family, but it is especially magical to be able to give support and bring hope and joy into her life.”
With the continued support of IKEA customers all over the world participating in the holiday Soft Toys for Education campaign, countless other children in many more countries will have the chance to join Jeni in enjoying their rights to a quality education and a much brighter future.