Projects to help disadvantaged children, youths and adults in their everyday lives are supported, organised and carried out each year by the committed members and supporters of the Lions Clubs in Budapest. The Budapest Times spoke to the English-language All Nations Lions Club about how it was established and its initiatives and plans.
The clubs have their origins in the United States where at the beginning of the 20th century a businessman, Melvin Jones, began working to improve the community in which he lived. The concept, based on ethical principles such as personal and active help, integrity, justice and responsibility to fellow human beings and the environment, soon spread around the world. Today an international network exists in over 200 countries, which aims to encourage people to serve their communities.
All Nations Lions Club
The English-language club, which is open to all nationalities, was founded in 1993 by an American, a Greek and an Italian. The main aim of the members was and is to give something back to society and to fill the gaps in the welfare and healthcare systems, as Armin Krug, former president of the club, explains.
However, of the club’s 24 active “Lions” not all are foreigners because the members have been joined since by some Hungarians. Membership involves not only fund-raising but also providing manpower and time.
The club has supported projects such as the renovation of nurseries and playgrounds or the construction of homes for families in need, pro-jects that require not only financial support but also active work such as digging foundations or cementing base plates. “Here nobody can buy their way out of working,” Krug jokes.
The club provides support where the Hungarian state or the health insurance fund fails. It has given donations, for example, of insulin pumps for children with diabetes, and has collected and distributed pairs of glasses.
Helping the blind and visually impaired is one of the main goals of the Lions worldwide. Some of the glasses frames, which are largely donated by opticians, go to Africa to help children with reading, but there is need in Hungary too, says Krug. He explains that each year around 50 to 60 complete pairs of glasses are made for children and relatives supported by the Zoltán Kovács Foundation.
“I know from my own childhood what it’s like to be short-sighted and not to have glasses, which is why this project is particularly close to my heart,” Krug says. The foundation, which runs an integrative nursery for Hungarians and Roma children, also receives additional funds, such as for a playground.
The club delivers donations of equipment, clothes and other items to those in need, rather than giving financial donations. For example, it has given musical instruments to the blind institute and blankets and clothes to an old people’s home. It delivers food monthly to the day-care facility for children in Zsámbék, organises trips for orphans and vaccinations for homeless people, and distributes some 1,000 parcels annually to disadvantaged children at Christmas.
For the past ten years the club has organised a gala concert in spring. The musicians perform for free and the proceeds go towards a given project. This spring the money will support the renovation of the neonatal care unit of Bethesda children’s hospital, which needs new technical equipment.
The equipment will be purchased in discussion with the hospital and then delivered.
Suggestions for projects are made by the members themselves and are then discussed and voted on. However, the club is open to ideas from outside.
Only a fraction of its projects are financed through donations by private individuals. Most money is received through the 1 per cent rule in Hungary, allowing people to give this amount of their tax to a non-profit foundation. “It wasn’t easy to gain that status but we managed it nonetheless,” Krug says with pride.
The long-term support of individual projects is important to him. He mentions in particular the Zoltán Kovács Foundation, which seeks to integrate Roma people and has set up a homework supervision scheme, the glasses project that helps many in their personal development, and a scholarship programme for Roma pupils wanting to study at grammar schools or in higher education.
These are initiatives that can contribute to Roma and disadvantaged Hungarians being able later to lead a regular working life, Krug says.
10th Gala Concert
Wednesday, 7 March at 7pm
Tickets HUF 5,000
District V, Zrínyi utca 5