An inspirational few days

It’s Tuesday night here in Geneva and I’ve finally got a bit of a chance to sort myself out and dump some of my thoughts, so here goes! It’s been a wonderful and inspirational few days since I left Canada on Thursday last week. I got to start my trip by meeting up with my cousin and her family – her little boy is absolutely adorable and I love spending time with all of them. We had a nice night together before they had to leave the following day, and they very kindly offered to let me stay at their place for the weekend.

Too bad we couldn’t spend more time together, but it was so nice to have their spot in such a great location in The Hague, as well as their bikes!

love biking around The Netherlands. It is so freeing! You can get around so fast! Such a great few days! I had some wonderful pizza just down the road, visited the Maudrodam which is this super cool miniature Netherlands (like literally, everything is in miniature form), had lunch with some friends of my cousins who I met last time (so nice to catch up!) and then I visited Haarlem and Amsterdam. I also got a chance to visit Delft on my first day there to check out the IKEA owned by Inter IKEA Systems and get a very nice tour around.

So the first part of my trip was wonderful and a great way to ease into the time zone change.

Then on Sunday I flew out to Geneva via Frankfurt, quick couple of flights – so weird for me to be able to change countries so quickly coming from North America. I can barely leave the province in an hour (and certainly not very cheap). I arrived in Geneva around 3pm, caught the train to the Central station which my hotel was a quick walk away from. Nice quick check in followed by some food and I was off wandering around!

I walked down towards the water and was greeted by a fairly odd sight… there was a gigantic doll being walked around by a crane (I do mean gigantic) controlled by a person behind them, also on the crane. The doll was walked around quite a distance (very slowly), and then eventually lowered on to a gigantic bed and the bed floated away in the water. I still have no idea what this was lol. I was able to find this website… but still don’t quite understand it.

So that was my introduction to Geneva!

The following day is when things start to get fun! We met up as a group at noon at the Novotel down the road. This was our chance to meet up as an IKEA group and share presentations, discussions and ideas about the relationship between IKEA, the IKEA Foundation and the UNHCR. I was one of the first presentations and I was talking about the perception of refugees around the world and how we as a company can help to positively influence it.

I humbly feel the presentation went well and generated a good deal of discussion, both in our Q&A time and afterwards as we were together as a group. I was able to show our two videos that we released in Canada with relation to refugees this year (the World Refugee Day video and the new Brand Spot that has a short shot of a refugee). Both were super well received.

We had some other great presentations and discussions which I took a lot away from, and look forward to bringing back to Canada to see what more we can do to help. I left the meeting feeling very inspired by what we’re doing around around the world, but even more inspired by the new possibilities of what we can do to increase our participation and support.

The UNHCR came in with two representatives shortly after, one who I traveled with to Jordan a couple years ago and gave a nice presentation speaking about partnerships with private organizations and how they impact the UNHCR. The IKEA Foundation continues to be the largest private partner for the UNHCR both in the amount of money we provide them and also in strategic support. Again, very inspiring to hear how we have such an impact on the world.

After that it was time to get spruced up! Luckily I had already checked in and laid out my dressy clothes so I just had to hop upstairs, get my tie tied right and off we go! We caught taxies down to the Bâtiment des Forces Motrices, an old factory that has been beautifully converted into a theatre where the Nansen Award reception was being held. There was a lovely reception with cocktails and appetizers and lots of interesting people from the UNHCR and many other organizations to mingle with.

I immediately caught sight of the photo station so I got myself a picture pretty quickly, and one other person also got in there quite early… I was standing with some co-workers and heard some murmuring, sure enough it turned out to be the honoree Mr. Zannah Mustapha. It didn’t seem that anyone else was planning on bugging him so I of course decided to introduce myself and get a few pictures! Once he heard IKEA he was quite excited to have a small discussion, it was an honour and a pleasure to meet him.

Again, quite the testimonial to our impact on the world

The ceremony was beautiful. Lovely music, amazing speakers, a video message from Angelina Jolie and a lovely award reception. It was live streamed on Facebook and I may post more details on it at some point, but needless to say it was a really wonderful event and the honoree is truly a hero well deserving of the award.

After the ceremony food and drinks were put out for all and more mingling happened. I had the opportunity to briefly chat with an amazing young woman, Najeen Mustapha, who was a keynote speaker. She has cerebral palsy and is a refugee. Her story is incredible, and she is a true inspiration. She has a TED talk if you’re interested in looking her up, and she just released a book.

We left around 10pm and that was the night! The next day had an early 8am wakeup where we had the opportunity to have breakfast with the honoree, Mr. Mustapha followed by some more meetings with the UNHCR and other private organizations which I’ll dive into a bit in my next post (this is getting long and I need to get to bed!)

So that’s the start of the trip, and what a start! The next bit is “vacation”, sort of – I’m back to the UNHCR tomorrow for a couple hours but then I’m done, really!