Soft Toys for Education

Soft Toys for Education - Thank you!

Every year, the IKEA Foundation donates €1 for every soft toy sold in participating IKEA stores in November and December. The donation goes to Save the Children and UNICEF, and is spent on children’s educational projects.

Thanks to the dedicated customers and co-workers who got involved in our 2013 campaign, we are able to donate a fantastic € 10.1 million this year! Watch this short video about this year’s soft toy super heroes.

Since 2003, the Soft Toys for Education campaign has:

  • raised nearly € 67 million
  • supported 99 projects in 46 countries
  • helped more than 11 million children receive a better education

The projects improve education in Asia, Africa, and Central and  Europe. With the funding, our partners help schools become more child-friendly with well-trained teachers for all children, girls and boys, including those from ethnic minorities and those with special needs.

Want to see how the money makes a difference? Check out our IWitness blog, where IKEA co-workers post their photos and stories when they visit Soft Toys projects.

  • Soft Toys for Education map
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    Thank you for supporting our Soft Toys for Education campaign!

    Want to see how you’re helping us and our partners change the lives of children around the world? Read blog posts written by IKEA co-workers who have visited the projects. Be inspired by their beautiful stories and photos!

  • Vietnam: Teaching ethnic minority children in their own language
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    Lots of children are anxious about starting school, but 8-year-old Tung was worried he wouldn’t even understand the teachers.

    Tung’s parents left four years ago looking for work, leaving his grandparents to raise him in their village in Vietnam, where they speak a local language. Vietnamese is a second language for Tung, making him and his family feel like outsiders from mainstream education.

    “My cousins often skipped school,” Tung says, explaining why he was nervous about going to school. “They didn’t understand what the teacher was saying. I really wanted to go to class, learn new things and see friends. But I was afraid I was going to be like my cousins.”

    Bilingual education creates opportunities

    Then Tung joined Save the Children’s innovative bilingual learning programme, which is supported by the IKEA Foundation’s Soft Toys for Education campaign. Every holiday season, for every soft toy sold in IKEA stores, the IKEA Foundation donates 1 euro to educational projects like this one.

    Tung is now in third grade, where teachers say he’s an excellent, hardworking and confident student eager to help his classmates with their studies.

    His grandparents are particularly proud. “At home, Tung still speaks our language with us and often reads us beautiful poems. The teacher sometimes visits us and helps Tung with his homework.”

    And the school has given Tung big dreams for the future. “I want to become a teacher. I would then come back to my home village to help other children like me learn better.”

    Thanks to IKEA co-workers and customers, and to Save the Children, Tung’s dream has every chance of coming true.

  • BURKINA FASO: An early start to education means a healthy start to life
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    Five-year-old Saudata Kabore seems shy at first, but she soon speaks animatedly about her experience at her nursery school. “This morning we sang,” she declares proudly. “I like coming here because I draw pictures and I do clay work.”

    When Tamesweoghin Nursery opened its doors, it forever changed the lives of children in the rural community of Ganzourgou, central Burkina Faso.

    Seventy-two children between the ages of three and six now enjoy a free pre-school education, learn to socialise with others and are provided with nutritious meals each day.

    Extensive research has shown that access to early childhood development services and early learning will strongly influence a child’s future physical and mental health, and social development.

    UNICEF, working with the Ministry for Social Welfare and National Solidarity, is providing financial and technical support, as well as teaching and play materials, for 90 similar centres throughout the country. Thanks to IKEA’s customers and co-workers, funds from the IKEA Foundation Soft Toy for Education campaign are also helping children like Saudata get a strong start in life.

  • NIGER: Helping girls stay in school
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    Ten-year old Tchimada Abdoulaye is the only one of her siblings to go to school. Coming from a poor nomadic family, Tchimada is lucky to attend. Her mother has already received marriage offers for her but wants her to finish her studies instead.

    “This is now my last year,” Tchimada says, “and I am preparing for the primary school certificate at the end of the year. If I succeed, I want to go on to middle school.”

    In Niger, access to school has improved a lot over the past few years. But there is still a significant gap between boys and girls, which is even more visible in rural areas. Many girls end up dropping out before completing their primary cycle, mostly because of the low quality of education, or because schools do not offer a safe and supportive environment for girls.

    As a result, only about 62% of girls pass their primary school certificate.

    Making schools girl-friendly

    Tchimada is still on the right track – mostly because she was lucky enough to be enrolled in a ‘Child-Friendly/Girl-Friendly’ school. Tchimada can take advantage of large classrooms, enough school supplies and books to cover her needs, well-trained teachers, and access to drinking water points.

    With teachers and children being educated about children’s and women’s rights, and with separate latrines for boys and girls, the school also offers a safe environment.

    Tchimada’s mother, Fatimata, who lives close to the school in a small hut, takes care of six children by herself. She supports her family by selling the wood that she picks up outside the city, and by selling mats. Fatimata works hard to keep Tchimada in school, but she has not always understood the importance of education.

    “My older children have not finished school because I did not support them enough. But I will not make the same mistake with Tchimade”, says Fatimata. “I do not want her to do household chores, so she has more time to study. I already received some requests to marry her, but she has to finish her studies first.”

    Today, UNICEF and its partners are working hard to make sure the Child-Friendly Schools model becomes more widespread. And with support from the IKEA Foundation’s Soft Toys for Education campaign, Tchimada’s story can become a reality for many more girls in Niger.

  • SOUTH AFRICA: Girls get a technical education
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    In South Africa, there’s a shortage of people with skills in science, technology and engineering. Yet girls are not encouraged to pursue these traditionally male-dominated subjects, and often perform poorly in these fields compared with boys.

    As a result, the girls of South Africa have limitations when it comes to their career opportunities and earning potential.

    But a dynamic new programme – called Techno Girls – is set to turn this around.

    UNICEF has partnered with the Department of Education and the private sector to give young girls from underprivileged schools an opportunity to take part in corporate mentorship and skills development initiatives.

    Building bridges

    Eighteen-year-old Khanyisile Mokele is one of the students in the Techno Girls programme. As a child, Khanyisile was extremely impressed that her uncle had designed and built a bridge over a highway. Discovering this helped set the stage for her ambitious future; she wants to be a civil engineer.

    “I want to design my own bridge,” she states emphatically. “Bridges bring the world closer.”

    An only child, Khanyisile has been fortunate to grow up in a family that values education. With her parents’ support and encouragement, she has always been motivated to get good grades.

    UNICEF aims to have placed 8,000 disadvantaged girls in structured job-shadowing programmes by 2013, so they will not only have the knowledge they need for the future, but also a wide range of opportunities too.

    The IKEA Foundation is supporting education programmes like Techno Girls in South Africa.

  • Albania: Inclusive schools bring new opportunities
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    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.