Skip to main content

"It’s good to remind people of the human face of an organization."

Two people in protective face masks hold up a bag of handmade masks intended for people who are homeless and social workers.

The Hungarian Helsinki Committee (HHC) is one of Hungary’s oldest human rights organizations. The 30-year-old NGO provides legal assistance to those who have fled war and torture or who have been subjected to police brutality. It stands against racism, and supports democracy. The HHC is an implementing partner of the UN Refugee Agency since 1998 a fund recipient of the UN Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture since 1994.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, members of the HHC shifted their focus to showing solidarity with those most affected by the pandemic and the emergency measures. Bernadett Nagy is the community and support organizer from the HHC. She explains why a shift to solidarity projects is still in line with the NGO’s main ethos.

“At the beginning, when we moved from being in the office to at home, we had an all-staff meeting, and we decided what kind of new activities we will do during the pandemic. The first thing was that we need to do some solidarity work and to encourage people to do the same.

If I wanted to explain this issue in a selfish way, I have to say that it is very good for the HHC to be able to show the human face of the organization as the government is working hard to demonize us and our work. It is an effective communication tool against demonization.

The HHC likes to help those in need.

A few HHC staff members are sewing masks for homeless people and for the social workers who work with them. We are donating blood to the Red Cross and we shop regularly for vulnerable people in our particular neighbourhoods.

HHC also collected old and disused laptops and donated them to an NGO helping online schooling of kids living in disadvantaged families.

One in five children in Hungary are not able to join digital education due to a lack of IT equipment at home. We decided to join an already ongoing campaign, called "Window to the bench", which hopes to provide IT tools and internet access to 300 children in 20 municipalities. Community organizers working in the field with local schools and with the Civil College Foundation are distributing IT tools. They organize the transfer of donations to the families and their volunteer mentors also help the families set up and use the IT tools.

We wanted to find a small NGO to donate (personal protection equipment PPE) to make sure where the money went.

The HHC donated 2 million HUF (about 5700 EUR) to a charity distributing protective medical gear to medical workers assisting those at home, care homes and for general practitioners. The money came from our staff and members of an association and from damages awarded us from the [current government] ruling Fidesz party through a court judgment.

The charity we donated to (Jobbulást Alapítvány) spent the money on: 2000 surgical masks; 500 FFP2 type masks; 85 protective jackets; 13 goggles; 32 boxes of gloves; and 84 litres of hand sanitizer. We consider it important to find ways to all the ways to stand together.

We can help protect against the pandemic in a tangible way, beyond the free legal assistance that the HHC provides.

With these initiatives and offerings, we do ourselves a favour, as they reassure us every day that we are not powerless even in such a situation. Solidarity is important to us as an organization and as individuals. And if we can set an example by motivating others to notice the opportunity to help, we will be very happy.”

Disclaimer: The views, information and opinions expressed in this article are those of the persons featured in the story and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.