IKEA’s latest ‘Syrian’ collection makes an impact (PHOTOS)

IKEA, partnering with the Red Cross, has built a complete replica of a Syrian family’s dwelling in its store to remind us that refugees still need our help.

IKEA 25m2 Syria. Photo Courtesy of POL

Shoppers who recently meandered through the displays of modern-style family rooms at IKEA in Slependen, Norway, looking for new furniture for the guest room and dinnerware were in for a little surprise. Everyone’s favorite Scandinavian furniture retailer transformed one of their famously perfect showrooms into a complete replica of a real home from civil war-torn Damascus, Syria inside their flagship store—concrete blocks and all. Partnering with the Red Cross and POL Advertising, the retail giant did not simply create an imagined place, but a true-to-life replica of the 25 square meters that local Damascus resident, Rana, shares with her family of nine, including four children, ages four to six.

Rana, previously a teacher, was forced to give up her job and move her family to an outer neighborhood of Damascus, Jaramana, because of the persistent violence and unrest where she had been living. The two-bedroom apartment is stark, cold, and not suitable for the cold winter that lies ahead. The family has no money for clothing, mattresses, or furniture, and depends on food parcels from the Syrian Arab Red Crescent to survive.

Take a look at the home, not to feel guilty and fortunate, but to feel empathy for Rana and millions other like her:

Rana, with her children, Hala, Omar, Hib and Afaf. They are safer in this home outside of the city center, but their lives are marked by suffering that most Westerners have never experienced.
The walls are made of real concrete, uninsulated and largely bare, exactly like those that Rana and her family live in. One of the campaign’s creators, Maja Folgero, said “It would have been easier to just put up wallpaper, but it wouldn’t have felt the same. We wanted the apartment to be as close to reality as we could—because this is real! People live like this.” All photos courtesy of POL.
A visitor to the campaign in Norway stops to read a story about one of the families that lives similarly. In just two weeks that IKEA hosted the display, over 80,000 people visited the makeshift home. The campaign successfully raised over 22 million euros for the Red Cross in Syria, according to Adweek.
Stories about and photos of real people decorate the nearly-bare walls of the dwelling. The familiar price tags normally used to describe home furnishings describe the situations and circumstances that many Syrian families are currently living in.
A young European girl, roughly the same age as Rana’s children, sits in the home on one of the only pieces of furniture available—a small, thin foam pad covered in a threadbare blanket. The reality of this family’s plight becomes more palpable as visitors imagine themselves in similar situations.
Rana and her children were only able to bring very few items with them as they sought refuge from the violence surrounding their home. They have little access to modern amenities, and the small portion of food that they receive from SARC (Syrian Arab Red Crescent) barely covers their need. Access to medication and health care is extremely scarce.

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In a time when we feel so divided here in the United States, it’s important—necessary, even—to think about others in Syria. If you are moved to help, please consider a donation to the Red Cross, the International Rescue Committee, or the UN Refugee Agency.

Ashley Jonkman
Ashley Jonkman
Ashley is a freelance writer and editor. She lives with her husband, two sons and two rambunctious dogs in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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