WOŚP: The time when hope for humankind returns
These days, the political and social situation in Poland is very complicated. The society is divided into supporters or challengers of two main political parties: Civic Platform and Law and Justice. Young doctors are on strike, and women protest against more restrictive abortion laws. Yet each year, there is one special day that unites the whole country: an incredible and very unique charity event called Wielka Orkiestra Świątecznej Pomocy, the Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity (WOŚP, GOCC), which is organized by Jerzy Owsiak.
Since 1993, WOŚP has been collecting millions of dollars to save the lives of newborns and seniors. Each year, the total sum fundraised is higher than the year before. In order to support the public healthcare system in Poland, money is used to purchase state-of-the-art equipment for Polish hospitals and clinics that are specially marked with red heart emblems, which indicate that it has been purchased by WOŚP. Moreover, WOŚP has initiated five nationwide medical programs that aim to systematically transform medicine in the country. WOŚP is also involved in introducing CPR lessons into primary schools nationwide. Their work is focused on supporting children’s medicine and improving the level of care offered to senior patients in geriatric and long-term care units.
Each year, thousands of volunteers across Poland fundraise money and work towards the same purpose. The center of the initiative is located in the heart of Warsaw. However, this event is not limited to solely Poland. Polish people living in countries all over the world organize local events supporting the event. WOŚP is currently present in many countries, like Bali, the USA, Japan, Portugal, Germany, Spain, France, Australia, New Zealand, China, and Canada.
Politicians, celebrities, and many other famous individuals in Poland offer their personal belongings or activities (like a dinner or exotic trip) for special auctions to support WOŚP. This year, Polish president Mr. Duda offered his bow tie to be auctioned, and the First Lady offered her outfit from the meeting with Donald Trump during his trip to Warsaw. In 2017, the total sum collected reached 10,557,080,149 PLN (US $31,031,806). So far this year, 81,423,542 PLN (US $23,934,084) has been fundraised; the final amount will be known in March and is expected to be significantly higher compared to the 2017 collection.
This incredible idea of helping people (and the fact that it has lasted for 26 years) represents the collaborative spirit of the Polish people, even during strife. In every interview, Jerzy Owsiak stresses that he is proud of Polish people. This year, even though the weather in January is not friendly in Poland, hundreds of young volunteers across the country collected money, participated in different races, and organized many charity concerts in different Polish towns. Thousands of people came just to have fun and support WOŚP.
As this Polish charity event shows, helping is fun, and the way that Polish people collaborate is extraordinary.
Find more information here: en.wosp.org.pl
Cover cartoon credit: Sergio Algeri/GYV