Dare to ask!

Just dare to ask!’ says Loredana, L’Arche Il Chicco (Rome) community leader, recalling how her community’s 10 year partnership with Ikea got started. It began almost by accident: a few people from L’Arche’s Nature workshop went for a break to Ikea’s coffee bar: as often happens, the lively interaction between everyone soon attracted the friendly attention of the staff. Fabrizio, the project leader of L’Arche’s green spaces, started chatting to one of the people serving. Sensing an opportunity, he immediately took the plunge: why not think up a shared project which would work for both sides? ‘Leave it with me.’  

Il Chicco

For a while, nothing, then… some Ikea workers came for a training day at Il Chicco; another joint event soon followed: ‘the Tree Day’. It was becoming obvious that L’Arche and Ikea could do business together! Ikea managers were keen to build on this early success. But with what project? It had to be something that would meet a ‘real’ need both for Ikea and L’Arche. It didn’t take long for them to arrive at the right solution: ‘Could L’Arche do something with all the plants which Ikea could no longer sell, as they were past their best?’ Answer: ‘Yes!’ 

 So now for over a decade, the ‘Nature’ group has been taking their van to Ikea and loading up all the plants needing a new home. Courtesy of Ikea, they all enjoy breakfast in the Café as part of the trip. Sometimes, they take a tour of the shop. Once back at Il Chicco, the team set to work transferring the plants to the greenhouse. Then comes the long careful work of restoring as many as possible to a reasonable condition. The best plants are then offered to friends and acquaintances for a donation, while the rest go into the compost. Nothing is wasted!  

Potential developments? Stefania, an assistant involved in the project has noticed that Ikea always needs new pictures to fill the frames they sell. As it happens, L’Arche runs a Saturday printmaking workshop for artists with an intellectual disability: Marika, Chiara, Salvatore, Giuseppe, Danilo, Alessandro, Daniele and Mimmo can each be relied on to regularly produce a colourful variety of animals, landscapes, flowers, people, abstract subjects, cities, monuments… very professional, very attractive: just the sort of thing that would nicely fill an Ikea picture frame… watch this space!  

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