There are many charitable organisations at work in Hungary. Some such as Lions Club are widely known, while other, no less important, organisations are known to fewer people but are still an indispensable part of the social support structure. One such group is the International Women’s Club (IWC) Budapest.
Some people who hear the words “charity”, “international” and “women” in one breath may imagine a meeting of middle-aged women with too much time on their hands. There may be clubs that are primarily about socialising and passing the time but this does not apply to the IWC.
Network meets needs
The president, Ingrid Ortgies, admits that she also had such preconceptions. “When I first heard of the IWC I also thought it was just a club for well-heeled wives.” Her first meeting with the members dispelled that notion. “When I moved to Budapest three years ago I didn’t know anyone. I got in touch with the IWC because I thought it would make it easier to get to know people.”
She took on organisational tasks almost right from the start, including the IWC’s International Food Festival. She is now near the end of her term as president but her drive is unchecked.
“The amount of energy and enthusiasm that the members and in particular the board members (Sally Momtaz, Moraima Ferradas Reyes, Magda Nagy, Ágnes Elam, Gizella Szecsei, Zsuzsa Béres, Hiroko Ishimoto, Jessica Brown, Marie Pataky-Kovalevitch, Erzsébet Cseh and Tasleem Lalji) put into the club is unbelievable,” enthuses the president.
The members meet monthly for the general meeting, but the board also meets with the same frequency to organise the next projects to be supported or collection campaigns. “The highlight of the IWC year is undoubtedly the annual ball,” Ortgies says of the event on 5 May (see advertisement on page 13). “Naturally non-members are also welcome at the event. The donations will go to schools, needy pupils, family, children’s hopes and other projects under the motto ‘Lift a Life – IWC helps’.”
The ball accounts for the majority of funds collected annually. Both the contributions of guests and various sponsors play an important role. “There are very many large companies that support us in our work,” Ortgies says. “Sometimes such companies do not want to be named directly but they know of our thanks and of those that we help.
Talents put to use
“If you consider how many excellently qualified women we have here we could easily run a company. And they put all that knowledge and those skills at the disposal of the IWC. The great thing about the IWC is that we give women who may, for example, move from country to country with their husbands, the possibility to get to know new people and make friends, as well as a platform to help.”
There are ongoing projects as well as one-off aid. The club’s work goes beyond mere donating. It checks all donations carefully and prefers to give items as donations, rather than cash. The IWC is always on the lookout for new projects. Personal visits play an important role.
Ortgies has a clear memory of the first such visit she made. “We drove to a school quite some way from the capital. We took large quantities of paper, notebooks, pens, etc. with us. It was a fantastic feeling when we gave all those to the teachers and could contribute actively to the everyday learning experience.”
There are more than 40 such clubs worldwide, offering many women who need to move for professional or private reasons a good forum for new friendships in a new city. The Budapest ladies always welcome new members. The general meetings are a good opportunity to get to know the others but the ball can also serve the same purpose.