The 13th annual Budapest Burns Supper, our charity fund raiser held at the Corinthia Grand Hotel Royal on Saturday 30 January 2010, raised “more than HUF 10 million” on the night.

 

The evening, held in honour of Scotland’s national bard, Robert Burns, has become a key event in the Budapest social calendar, and has raised thousands of millions of forints for sick Hungarian children over the years.

While full figures will take some time to arrive at, Jock MacKenzie, chairman of the Robert Burns International Foundation, which distributes the money, was upbeat about the total. “We can say that Ft10 million was raised on the night, which we are very happy with, and more has been pledged since.”

A focus of this year’s supper was getting people to donate 1% of their personal income tax to the RBIF, at no extra cost as the Hungarian government agrees to give up the money from its tax take, provided a nomination is made.

Stuart McAlister, managing director of the Inter Relocation Group, and chairman of the Burns Supper organising committee, said that the RBIF had received HUF 1 million forints last year “without really trying,” and was hoping to raise awareness both of the scheme itself, and the Foundation’s ability to benefit from it. Adrian Gray, General Manager of Le Meridien Hotel Budapest, and a member of the Curatorium which runs the RBIF, said one idea being considered was to appoint a “1% Champion”.

 

Pictured from left to right, Zoltán Magyar, founder of the RBIF, president of the Hungarian Scottish Society, William John “Willie” McStay, the Scottish-born coach of Újpest FC, presenting the Ferenc Puskás – Sir Alex Ferguson trophy to Attila Erdei, Commercial Director for Diageo in Hungary and Croatia, Jock MacKenzie, Chairman of the Curatorium of the RBIF, and Stuart McAlister, Chairman of the Budapest Burns Supper Committee. (Photo by Tamás Rajna)

“We obviously want those who were there at the Supper to give their 1% to the Foundation, but we would also like the chief executives among them to encourage their employees who don’t yet make a donation to consider doing so to the RBIF,” Gray said.

Precise, up-to-date figures are not easy to find, but Mónika Keztyûs, a tax manager at PricewaterhouseCoopers, says that the scheme covers all 3.5 million people who are liable to pay tax in Hungary. The amount raised in 2009, which was based on the 2008 tax returns, was put at HUF 9.4 billion (€34.8 million), she explained, split between 28,000 nominated charities and foundations.

The Burns Supper also saw the official launch, by British Ambassador Greg Dorey, of a €50,000 appeal for the second department of paediatrics at SOTE University Hospital, to build parent and child suites for “distant trauma” patients coming into Budapest from the Hungarian countryside, and possibly even abroad. The money is to be raised in large part by expats Simon Saunders and Harry Harron, who are competing in the Marathon des Sables in April. Billed as the toughest foot race on earth, it involves running five and a half marathons in six days across the Sahara desert.

For more information on their efforts, visit the team’s own blog  or Marathon effort for Hungarian mothers and sick children Facebook group.