Anikó Lévai: Charities help keep the Christmas spirit alive

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Although this year’s Christmas will be a little different because of the coronavirus, we still need to look for hope, Anikó Lévai, goodwill ambassador of the Ecumenical Relief Organization, said in an interview with Vasá Lévai, Viktor Orbán’s wife, joined the Hungarian Ecumenical Relief Organization in 1998. She said charitable work had to be learned anew after 1989.

Over the past 30 years, such work has become a profession, and they have learned a lot from aid organizations elsewhere in the world. Charitable work requires well-thought-out, serious planning and implementation adapted to the circumstances charities are facing. In addition, accurate and transparent accounting is essential, Lévai said, adding that thanks to the pioneering work, people are increasingly trusting aid organizations. “In recent years, in times of disasters, I have experienced much greater collaboration with NGOs working together, working effectively in trouble, sharing responsibilities with each other,” she said. Anikó LévaI has been active in charitable work for decades. She also said she never found her work to be futile, always felt useful, and believes there will be plenty of work and challenges for a long time to come.

Lévai said heartwarming moments also occur during volunteer work. She pointed to the Sandzak province in the Balkans, which saw a sheep-breeding countryside community devastated during the Yugoslav wars. The Hungarian Ecumenical Relief Organization wanted to help a village where almost everyone was out of a job. Her organization wanted to buy sheep for them, but the young people told them to buy computers instead. “We bought both. And when we went back a year later, we saw the sheep breeding, and the young buying and selling wool on online exchanges. It’s the old story about giving a fish or a net,” Lévai said. When a Transylvanian village was hit by a flood, local leaders advised them to buy smaller animals, such as poultry, for those in need. The reason for this was that if people own a hen, then they will have something to do, which would keep them from becoming overwhelmed by depression, and better help them overcome a tragedy. While the Ecumenical Relief Organization has had to deal with several difficulties over the years, now the coronavirus epidemic gives them a different task, she said. According to Lévai, deprivation has several faces, but the task is always the same. “Our motto is, ‘FOOD for the hungry, HOME for the homeless, CHANCE for the disadvantaged!’ This shows that the December collaboration is not just about giving gifts or making the holidays more beautiful,” Lévai said, adding that the organization has been working for years to help people breakout out of poverty. At the same time, aid, while often essential, can also be a trap because it keeps people in poverty, she warned. “We must not give up hope, we must constantly work on putting forward new ways of working in order to be able to develop aid program models that do not keep those in need in poverty, but help them, or at least their children, to break out of it and thrive on their own,” she said. The 57-year-oldLévai, a lawyer by training, married Viktor Orbán in 1986. They have five children.

Title image: Anikó Lévai lights the first candle on the Advent wreath. (source: Ecumenical Relief Organization)

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