ATHENS -- There was a joyful and busy atmosphere at the the premises of the Neos Kosmos municipal kindergarten in Athens last Saturday. Boxes of all sizes were unloaded. The building’s entrance transformed into an improvised workshop. Volunteers and employees from Swedish furniture giant Ikea tore up packages at a hectic rate and, with a little help from the manual, transformed them into furniture in no time.
Room by room, the children’s quarters took on color and became more welcoming and more functional.
Since 2013, Ikea has partnered with Greek municipalities in the framework of the Social Responsibility program “Joyful Nurseries” to give color and care to kindergartens across the country.
Ikea has furnished more than 25 kindergartens so far. The first ones were located in the western port city of Thessaloniki, in the region of Epirus, near Albania, and the eastern municipality of Thessaly. The collaboration between Ikea and the municipal Athens kindergarten began this year -- and seven nurseries in the region will be equipped. Next year, Ikea will add another 10 nurseries to the program, which it wishes to extend further.
Natassa Christofi,who’s responsible for marketing at IKEA, hailed the collaboration as an important one for both parties. “We are really moved when we learn of the reactions of the children as well as of their parents, when they see the new surroundings -- the nursery instructors describe them to us," she told The Huffington Post Greece. "The children draw big drawings and express their joy in this way.”
So far, Ikea has sponsored products costing up to 150,000 euros, or about $160,000, and it is expected to increase up to 200,000 euros when the 10 nurseries scheduled for next year are completed.
“We get in touch with the municipality and they tell us what kinds of needs exist and in which nurseries, ” Christofi said. “Then we pay a visit to the nursery, take pictures and receive plans of the space and our decorators start designing and figuring out which products are needed. We meet with the municipality again, as well as with the nursery instructors, for them to assess whether what we have planned will meet their needs. We draw a final account of the stuff needed, agree on its positioning, order the products and, roughly within a month, we are ready and set an appointment with the nurseries to execute the whole operation on a Saturday.”
On Monday, fun and games at Neos Kosmos. The nursery takes care of babies up to the age of two and a half. They may not actually grasp the transformation of the space that surrounds them, but their parents are impressed by the new decor. The furniture is practically designed, safe -- and lots of toys await the children.
This story originally appeared on HuffPost Greece and was translated into English.