Ladies and gentlemen from many different countries meet for lunch in Budapest once a month. The location is elegant, the atmosphere is casual. The event that looks like a friendly get-together for the outsider actually has an important aim.
The Grandhouse International Club was founded by Albert Royaards from the Netherlands. Royaards has been living in Budapest for many years and he is primarily known for his charity organisation Smiling Hospital Foundation, which has been making children’s days in hospitals brighter for ten years.
However, Royaards would like to do more. Thanks to the long time he has spent in the city he understands quite well how Hungary works. He founded the club because he well knows that it takes time, a lot of communication, mutual understanding and listening to get your voice heard in this country.
The members of the Grandhouse International Club are very diverse. Diplomats, artists and business executives, professionals, artists and others have all made it their goal to help Hungary in its development. Royaards explains: “We see that there are problems in the country. And since we are living here and we consider the country as our chosen home, we would like to help.”
There is no specific action plan yet; the events are much more about the club members exchanging their thoughts, even including politics. The main idea is that they should communicate as equals about everything, Royaards emphasises. Nobody likes to be lectured by others.
This is why the Grandhouse International Club tries to be more about presenting its concerns in a way that does not lead to conflict but rather to target-oriented cooperation; perhaps in the future with the Hungarian government as well.
It is natural for the members that the young intellectuals in the country should play a role. Thus the club has been collaborating with business school Zsigmond Király Főiskola offering a scholarship that allows the two best students to join the club on favourable terms and to participate in the monthly meetings in the Academy of Sciences.
“We are negotiating with other schools to keep the club young in mind and spirit”, Royaards says. The meetings are an occasion to let your thoughts flow freely in a casual atmosphere accompanied by food and drink. A guest speaker is invited each time and the range of topics is broad, from ship transportation through politics to the Hungarian wine regions.
“It’s important for us that our members are always informed about something new in the club,” the founder says. One aim is also to support charity, not just material help but to offer solutions as well. The scope of a new charity project is to organize a regular, traveling motivational speaking tour, which is specifically targeted at under-privileged regions in Hungary. The objective is to have highly successful (in sports, science, business, or otherwise) Hungarian people originally from a modest economic background (the best would be to have a speaker from the same region where the upcoming event shall be held) give a presentation about how they achieved their success, and to stand as a role model, so as to say: “If I could do it, so can you!”
Albert Royaards knows he has started a large project. “I don’t know when the Grandhouse International Club will reach some results. It could be in two, in twelve or in twenty years, I don’t know. However, we give an opportunity for people who would like to do something for this country to exchange thoughts with like-minded people. This is already a beginning.”