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Playing for change



The IKEA Foundation and its partner Handicap International are on a mission to get children with disabilities who live in temporary shelters, playing and developing. Meet Hay Tar Gay, one of the children who benefits from the partnership.

Taking play seriously

Hay Tar Gay arrived in this temporary shelter in north western Thailand when she was just one year old, after a bus journey from Myanmar that lasted three days. She’s 10 years old. Energetic and ambitious at school, she enjoys being the centre of attention.

Twice a week, Hay Tar Gay goes to the rehabilitation centre located near her shelter. She is retraining her left leg, which is set at an awkward angle and causes her to walk with a heavy limp. The centre is run by Handicap International, which supports people with disabilities and other vulnerable groups in close to 60 countries. Handicap International is one of six organisations that the IKEA Foundation has joined forces with for Let’s Play for Change, a three-year partnership that takes play very seriously.

Hay Tar Gay with her prosthetic leg. The own leg is set in an awkward angle and causes her to walk with a heavy limp.

To train I kick and throw balls, cycle, and I put my feet up and down. Little by little my leg gets better.

Every child’s right

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child states that every child should have the right to play.

“From birth to age eight, play is fundamental to development,” says Chris Williams, Communications Manager at the IKEA Foundation. “It allows children to learn negotiating skills, teamwork and resilience to stress, and it helps the brain develop.”

This is her home. A temporary shelter in north western Thailand.

An inclusive, holistic approach

But children with disabilities are often excluded from play activities, and children with disabilities living in temporary shelters are among the most vulnerable. “Play can include dance, sport, drawing, games, theatre,” says Cheryl Shin-Hua Yeam, Regional Technical Coordinator at Handicap International. “This project is about promoting emotional, social, cognitive and moral development, a holistic approach. Many of these children have experienced trauma, and play is a way to release stress and express what’s going on inside.”

Bringing kids together

At the camp, the next step is to build playgrounds where children with and without disabilities can come together. There are also plans for children’s clubs where they themselves can decide on the activities. And Hay Tar Gay has plans of her own: to become an English teacher or a doctor. And with a name that means “Give good things,” we are sure that she will.

What is IKEA Foundation?

IKEA Foundation is the philanthropic arm of INGKA Foundation, the owner of INGKA Holding B.V. (owner of the largest IKEA franchisee). The IKEA Foundation aims to improve opportunities for children and youth in some of the world’s poorest communities by focusing on four fundamental areas of a child’s life: a place to call home; a healthy start in life; a quality education; and a sustainable family income.

IKEA Foundation is also helping these communities fight and cope with climate change. By working with very strong strategic partners such as Handicap International, IKEA Foundation can use innovative approaches to achieve large-scale results for children.

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