Sam isn’t doing too well at school.  But without the support of TK2 he wouldn’t be in school at all.

The 14-year-old is having to repeat grade six because he didn’t show up to re-sit an exam – one which his tutors at Blythswood’s after-school programme believe he could have passed if he tried.

At TK2, Sam has proven that he has real ability, especially in acting, dance, choreography and music.  “He has played major roles in all our musicals so far,” says Adrian Popa, director of Blythswood’s Talita Kum project.  “His drums teacher says that he could easily play in a band.”

Sam is the youngest of five children from a low-income family who share three small rooms in a former army barracks lacking even the most basic amenities.  From the day he started school he had difficulty fitting in: his bad language and physical violence caused frequent disruption.

“Even Blythswood’s social workers thought of giving up on him,” Adrian admits.  “Only their patience, love, discipline and determination have kept him from dropping out of school.

“Sam is still causing trouble in and out of school but is a totally different child at Talita Kum, respectful and trying to get ready for the next day.”

Social workers from TK2 sometimes visit him at school and sit in on his classes.  “This provides a significant incentive for Sam to behave,” says Adrian.  “The teachers would love this to happen more often.”

Adrian is in no doubt that without the incentive provided by TK2 Sam would have dropped out of school completely.  Admission is conditional on having attended classes that day.  “Sometimes he goes missing for a day or two and gets into bad company.  But he comes back and admits he was wrong and promises to be stronger next time.

“Every day he is torn between what he learns with us and what he thinks he has to do and say to please his friends.”

TK2 extends Talita Kum’s provision of nutrition, education and cultural activities to children aged 11-14, giving them the support they need to continue their schooling, despite disadvantages at home.

1) Mezőtúr Városi Kórház (Mezőtúr Town HospitalPaediatric Unit, Jász-Nagykun-Szolnok County. Mezőtúr lies in the centre of the Alföld (the Great Hungarian Plain), about 150 km (90 miles) southeast of Budapest.

Pulsoximeter and sensor: a sensitive monitor for blood oxygenation in the intensive care of newborn babies, as well as in infants and children. “The modern intensive care of urgent, life-threatening diseases simply can not be done without this appliance,” says Professor Fekete.

Air humidifying chamber and camera: for the treatment of children suffering from asthma. This is important throughout the whole year, because asthma is a very frequent disease in childhood.”

Total support HUF 1,099,080.

2) Felső-Szabolcsi Kórház (Upper Szabolcsi Hospital) Paediatric Unit, Kisvárda, Szabolcs-Szatmár-Bereg County. Kisvárda is about 280 km (170 miles) northeast of Budapest.

Electrocardiograph machine, bought by Upper Szabolcsi Hospital with RBIF funds, in use.
Photo courtesy of Dr. Sándor Molnár 

ECG CARDIETTE AR 1200adv VIEW: electrocardiograph machine for every-day diagnostic evaluation of the heart. “An updated, excellent machine,” the Professor says.

Paramedic iPad Defibrillator: for use in acute emergency situations, when heart function stops. “It is obligatory for all hospital units where severely ill children are referred and treated.”

Injection-infusion pump: for intravenous infusions when dealing with shock or infectious diseases. “This is the modern method of long-term fluid and electrolyte infusion therapy in infants and children.”

Total support HUF 1,039,400

Városi Kórház Rendelőintézet Gyógyfürdő és Rehabilitációs Központ (Town Hospital and Rehabilitation Centre and Spa), Paediatric Unit, Kiskunfélegyháza, Bács-Kiskun county. Kiskunfélegyháza is in southern Hungary, some 120 kilometres (75 miles) southeast of Budapest

ECG Cardioline AR1200 View monitor: for permanent observation of heart functions,

ABPM-05 ambulatory blood pressure monitor: for 24-hour monitoring, and computerised evaluation in several disorders causing elevated blood pressure.

Total support HUF 970,000

4) Szent Lázár Megyei Kórház (County Hospital of St. Lazarus), Paediatric Unit, Salgótarján, Nógrád County. Salgótarján lies about 110 km (70 miles) northeast of Budapest.

POX Infusion Pumps: for function, see 2) above.

Total support HUF 1,000,000

5) Tolna Megyei Balassa János Kórház (Tolna County Balassa János Hospital), Paediatric Unit, Szekszárd, Tolna County. Szekszárd is roughly 150 km (90 miles) south of Budapest.

CAS MEDICAL SYSTEMS, Inc. CAS-740-1 blood pressure monitor: For function, see 3) above.

Total support HUF 427,470

“All of the equipment applied for by the above mentioned hospitals and paediatric units has a major impact on the high quality management of diagnostic and treatment care of children suffering with severe, sometimes acute and life-threatening, diseases,” Fekete says.

The inaugural RBIF Curling Weekend was held on 16-17 November at the Kamaraerdei Curling Club in Budaörs, where almost 100 complete beginners got their first taste of this centuries’ old winter sport.

The choice of curling may seem strange, but with the sport having been invented in Scotland around 500 years ago, this was an opportunity that a Scottish-Hungarian foundation simply could not miss.

Sliding, sweeping, not falling over, these were just some of the skills that the budding curling players were taught in groups of 16 over the weekend. What surprised everyone was the physical stamina required on the ice rink, especially with curling broom in hand. Did you know a professional curler can burn up to 3000 calories during a championship game?

The instructors at the club were very professional, and patient (!) with all the participants, and the high standard of instruction was demonstrated by the fact that after just 2 hours, all the teams were able to pair off and have mini competitions.


Thanks to our catering sponsor Tom&George’s Italiano there was some delicious finger-food waiting for the curlers when they eventually made their way off the ice, often reluctantly!

Apart from the Curling Club and the Hungarian Curling Federation, without whose help the event would never have got off the ground, our thanks also goes to the Hungarian Paralympic Association and KPMG for their assistance in part-financing the weekend cost of hiring the ice rink.

Due to the resounding success of the event we plan to make this a regular annual fundraiser, so if you fancy yourself as the next curling champion, or would just like to give it a go, keep an eye on our Facebook page and website next year!

Pictures of the event can be found on our Facebook page:

The bandsmen who have for years added an authentic Scottish soundtrack to the annual Budapest Burns Supper are to walk the 96 miles (154 km) of the West Highland Way in a bid to raise funds for this year’s Robert Burns International Foundation charity project: a HUF 29 million (EUR 105,000) appeal to reconstruct a five-bed intensive care unit at the II Department of Paediatrics, Semmelweis University, Budapest.
west-highlandThe nine-strong group plan to leave Milngavie, the traditional starting post for the long distance route close to Glasgow, at approx 9 am on Friday, 29 March and will hopefully arrive in Fort William on Tuesday, 2 April. Along the way they will have taken in some of the most beautiful of Scotland’s scenery, from lowland moors, dense woodland and rolling hills, to high mountainous regions in the Scottish Highlands.

These environments provide habitats for a diverse range of wildlife species, both flora and fauna, and for five days and four nights will also be home to pipers Rab Tait and Grant Munro, and drummers John Benson, Steven Brown, Miles McIntyre, Michael Rutherford, and Barry and Colin Wilson. Kirtstie Tait, Rab’s youngest daughter, will also accompany the men.

“We have decided to wild camp,” explains Rab, “which basically means we will only have the provisions, clothes and sleeping equipment we can carry. We have never done anything like this before, and as pipers and drummers are not known for our fitness levels!”

IMG_2026The bandsmen have supported the RBIF for 10 years, performing at its Burns Night events and often attending at their own expense, as well as playing at St Andrew’s Night suppers and visiting orphanages, schools and hospitals in Budapest. Now they are hoping to raise much needed money for what Rab calls “a truly worthwhile cause”. You can sponsor the bandsmen (and one daughter) direct, via PayPal, or with a bank transfer to the RBIF account.

The II Department of Paediatrics is putting an additional HUF 11 million (EUR 40,000) of its own limited funds into the project, which will see the ICU completely reconfigured and renovated with new wiring, cables, alarms, breathing apparatus and a spare generator in the event of power failure. Two of the beds will be in protective isolation areas, but all five will be independent of each other, with their own monitoring and resuscitation equipment and a dedicated nurse. In addition to serving the hospital itself, the ICU will be the weekend emergency unit for Budapest.

For more information on the Robert Burns International Foundation, the appeal and the West Highland way, follow the links below.

Where it all started

Welcome to the West Highland Way

Prepared for the Robert Burns International Foundation by Robin Marshall MBE of Devil’s Advocate Communications as a pro bono service. 

The 2013 Appeal of the Robert Burns International Foundation is to help finance the complete refurbishment of the intensive-care unit at the 2nd Department of Paediatrics at SOTE Hospital in Tűzoltó utca, Budapest.

The appeal is to be officially launched at the Budapest Burns Supper on 26 January 2013.

Please take a few moments to watch our appeal video:

Donating 1% of your personal income tax is an easy way to support the Robert Burns International Foundation and, as it comes out of your total tax payment, costs you nothing extra. But how does the system work?

Since the mid-1990s, successive Hungarian governments have indulged in what is, for them, a most untypical example of tax largesse. In doing so, they have provided a vital infusion of cash to charity foundations and religious establishments across the country.

It works in an extremely simple way, at least in theory. The state agrees to forego 1% of your total personal income tax payment, and pass it on to a charity foundation of your choice, and to do the same with another 1% to a registered religious establishment.

All this happens at no extra cost to you, the taxpayer; it comes from the money you have already paid tax authority APEH. Nor is it dependent on nationality. There are only two qualifiers: one, you must be legally resident and pay your taxes in Hungary; two, you must nominate the bodies to receive the tax benefit. If you don’t do so, or are late with your payment or file a faulty tax return, the money goes into the general state budget.

The religious element of tax relief is not new. Mike Birch, former Assurance Partner for the Robert Burns International Foundation’s accountants PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), recalls that, years ago, when he first moved to Germany, the church tax was deducted automatically, unless you opted out.

The Hungarian charity element was new, however. “I think the government philosophy was that if the money came from a tax donation, it wouldn’t have to dip directly into its coffers to support such NGOs, and, in the 1990s, the need for support was absolutely dire,” Birch says.

The law was introduced here in 1996, although, unlike in the German example, taxpayers have to opt in. Passed in 1997, it came into effect for the first time in 1998.

The law covers all 3.5 million people who are liable to pay tax in Hungary.

For you to boost the numbers of those giving their 1% could not be simpler. All you need to do is ask your accountant to include the details of the foundation in a special form attached to your tax declaration. It is only 1%, and it costs you nothing, but with the foundation’s help, it really can make a difference.

By Robin Marshall

Family dare leads to children’s charity

Join us on a journey through the misty veil of history deep into the folklore that surrounds the annual celebration of a Scottish birthday in Hungary…

It seems an odd beginning, but the Budapest Burns Supper started in 1997 with a family challenge, when a relative of Jock MacKenzie’s Hungarian wife Nellie suggested the Scotsman organise a party in honour of his country’s national poet.

MacKenzie is honest enough to admit he had no idea back then what a Burns Supper might entail. “Although I was born in the north of Scotland, the family had moved by the time I was three or four, so I was never really brought up with it; I was raised and educated in the South.” By “the South” he means England.

It was while researching Burns traditions that MacKenzie met someone who was to play a huge part in his life, and that of the Budapest Burns Supper; Zoltán Magyar, the chairman of the Hungarian-Scottish Society.

Magyar loved the idea of a Burns evening, and a plan was soon hatched to find a handful of Scottish expats and do “something small” in the countryside in January 1998. “I was going to provide a sheep and some whisky, Zoli a pig and the pálinka,” MacKenzie recalls. But even then, the Burns Supper had a will of its own. “Within three months, it had escalated to an event for 300 people in its first year,” MacKenzie says.

Letters of support were received from the office of the then President of Hungary, Árpád Göncz, and the Prime Minister. The British and Canadian Ambassadors attended. The Trade Unions’ Congress Hall provided the venue. Tickets, MacKenzie says, cost around HUF 2,000, but that was still enough to generate a surplus of HUF 150,000, which no one seemed quite certain what to do with.

Nellie MacKenzie was a teacher working with seriously handicapped children; she knew first hand that Hungarian healthcare was – and sadly still is – in great need of financial support. She began to ask around her colleagues for a worthy beneficiary. “Three or four weeks later, all the contacts were coming back pointing to Prof. György Fekete at SOTE II,” MacKenzie says. Another piece of what makes today’s Burns event had fallen into place.

He went to meet the good doctor at the Second Department of Paediatrics at Semmelweis University of Medicine to hand over the cash, and what he saw changed his life. It is still, he says, the thing that drives his passion to raise ever more money. Fekete showed him round a clinic were the obvious love and care of the staff was coupled to crumbling infrastructure and ancient equipment. “He took me to the second operating theatre, opened the door and a cloud of dust blew up. Once it had settled, and we could see again, it was like walking into a Dickensian surgery.”

With haggis from Cockburns of Dingwall (who supplied the late Queen Mother), and cheese from Orkney by Inverness Farmers Dairy (both still supply the event, with DHL transporting the goods free of charge), the first supper, called the Burns Overnight, had laid a basis; the second event, in 1999, would set the pattern. Ticket prices went up, but so did the level of entertainment. Overheads were to be avoided (the evening, indeed the Robert Burns International Foundation itself, is still overhead free), and there was to be a fundraising target: HUF 6 mln for a modern operating table for that unused, unusable theatre. MacKenzie laughs at the audacity of it now, but the table was brought out to Hungary and put on display during the evening.

“I remember we had some difficulty bringing it in, a deposit had to be paid, but somebody came to our rescue, as they generally do.” By the end of the evening, this time held in Hűvösvölgyi Vigadó, enough had been pledged to ensure the table could find its new home.

Now established as an annual event, the charity fundraiser continued to grow.

“There were key points when it jumped a level. One was when Mark Muss took over as Chairman for the evening in 2000; there’s no doubt he took us onto a new plain. A second was when Adrian Gray (General Manager of Le Meridien) got involved. His relationship with Adrian Ellis (GM of the Corinthia) moved us from a three-star operation to a five-star operation, and not just in terms of location. Another came when Stuart McAlister succeed Mark as chairman of the Burns Supper in 2004.”

The Robert Burns International Foundation – with Zoli Magyar as founder and Steve Jones, after many years helping the Burns Suppers, appointed General Secretary – was born out of a desire to put the fundraising on a more professional, transparent basis that was sustainable. It took over organisation of the Burns Supper. The joint patrons are the British Ambassador in Hungary and the Hungarian Ambassador in London. The Deputy Head of the UK Mission has a permanent seat on the Curatorium that runs the foundation.

Sir Alex Ferguson was appointed as the Honorary President and for five years has presented the annual Ferenc Puskás – Sir Alex Ferguson Sponsor of the Year Trophy.

The large scale Budapest Burns Supper also supports the “Small Burns Supper” held in and with the support of the Scottish Mission. Staged a few days later, it is supplied with the same food and drink and is designed to provide a more traditional supper; as it is not a fund raising event, ticket prices are kept much lower.

By Robin Marshall

Budapest Burns timeline.

1759 – Robert Burns born on 25 January in Alloway, South Ayrshire
1796 – Burns dies 21 July in Dumfries, age just 37
1998 – Burns Overnight, Trade Unions’ Congress Hall (MSzOSz), Budapest, the very first official Budapest Burns Supper
1999-2000 – Burns Supper at the Hűvösvölgyi Vigadó
2001 – Burns Supper at the Intercontinental Hotel
2002 – Burns Supper at the Marriott Hotel
2003 – to date – Burns Supper at the Corinthia Hotel Budapest
2002 – 5th anniversary
2005 – Robert Burns International Foundation founded
2007 – 10th anniversary
2017 – 20th anniversary

The Ferenc Puskás – Sir Alex Ferguson Sponsor of the Year Trophy goes to the company judged to have made the most significant contribution to the work of the Robert Burns International Foundation during the course of the previous year.

Stewart Miller, a sports fan from Argyll, Scotland, had been so moved by the death of the legendary Hungarian footballer Ferenc Puskás that he wanted to present something to the Galloping Major’s widow, Erzsébet, in honour of the great man. In 2006 he commissioned a Scottish artist to fashion a copper football.

Miller wrote to the Hungarian embassy in London outlining his plans, and details eventually came to the attention of our very own Zoltán Magyar, the Robert Burns International Foundation Founder, President of the Hungarian-Scottish Society and a man long involved with Hungarian football.

It was Magyar who suggested that, rather than sit in a trophy cabinet somewhere, the piece of art be given a larger, more rewarding profile; Mrs Puskás agreed that it could be used as an annual sponsor’s award. In 2007, Sir Alex Ferguson became the Honorary President of the RBIF. Since his daytime job as manager of Manchester United Football Club tends to keep him fully occupied on weekends in January, it was decided he would make a presentation of the award at United’s ground, the Theatre of Dreams, just before kick-off at a home Premier League game.

Previous winners of the trophy are Tesco Global Áruházak Zrt (2011), Vodafone Hungary (2010), Diageo Hungary Ltd (2009), Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc (2008), and the Corinthia Hotel Budapest (then the Corinthia Grand Hotel Royal), which won the inaugural title in 2007 for its continued support as host and co-organiser of the Burns Supper.

by Robin Marshall 

I’m Mike Kelly and this year I’m part of the drive by the Robert Burns International Foundation (RBIF) to raise HUF 10,000,000. This money will provide a special bus for future Hungarian paralympians and the London Olympics is providing the perfect backdrop.

This, in brief, has been my story up to now.
I’ve been rasing money for cancer research for six years. For six years I have been asking friends, neighbours and often near strangers to sponsor me. I promise to train hard and complete an extremely demanding 42.2 Km run. They promise to donate 10, 20, 50 pounds. Whatever it is they can spare.

Trust is hugely important – that I will keep my word. That I will train and complete the run to the very best of my ability. And, crucially, that the organisation for whom the money is being raised is beyond reproach and ploughs the money into exactly what it says it will. The integrity of the organisation is sacrosanct. The RBIF, then, is the perfect organisation to work with! Their record speaks for itself and I’m proud to be part of the team organising this year’s amazing event.

Up till now it’s gone something like this.
’I’m going to run 42.2 kilometers. Please give me a little money which will help save lives, the lives of children and adults alike, potentially for years and years to come. I’ll do the hard bit, the miles and miles of training and the big run itself, you make a contribution. Please?’

’Umm,yes, ok! Put me down for x pounds please.’ And that’s it. I’m off. The first donation, or promise of a donation, and the adrenalin is flowing. The will to train is there in my thinking, in my heart and soul. Another long road ahead but so much good to be achieved. The training begins. This is easy. A few kilometres here and there. Then the bigger distances – not so easy. Aches and pains in places you’d almost forgotten about. The calves, the shins, the hamstrings. Then a turning point. I’m fitter, much fitter than I was a few weeks ago. I can up the pace, go for longer.
Then the next big step. A half marathon on a Sunday morning when it’s minus 5 outside. ’Do I really want to do this? It’s so warm and snug under these blankets!’ Yes I do, because ten people have already made pledges to the cause. I have given them my word. I have given the charity my word. Up you get!

And so it goes on for weeks and months. Till the big run. All the training has been done. So much will come down to how I’m feeling on the day. We’re off! Thousands of people running, even more to cheer us on. The first few kilometres are easy, relaxed, soaking up the atmosphere. The odd wave and high fiving the hands of smiling kids along the route.

At 15 kilometres I feel it a little but all going to plan, a good strong steady pace. Then the half-way point. Psychologically an important landmark. I’m a bit concerned, I shouldn’t really be feeling discomfort at this stage but I know from experience, I remind myself, that all big runs have their ’moments’. See it through. Nice deep breaths. ’You’ve done the training. It will pass.’ And, for a while, it does.
At 25 kilometres I’m not so bad again, I can do this. I spot a few people I know. That’s a boost. Perfect timing.
But at 30 kilometres it’s starting to hurt again. A different kind of hurt to earlier. This is becoming hard, I’m really having to dig in but there’s still 12 kilometres to go! Dread and fear slowly rising.

At 34 kilometres – ’Why am I doing this again?!’ By now every step is taking so much will power. So, why?
Then the answer surges through you and gives you the extra something that no amount of training can give you.
This IS saving lives! Me finishing WILL help poeple who won’t otherwise be helped. I have met the doctors face to face and they have thanked me, have told me that without the money raised by me running and you donating their research and subsequent breakthroughs simply wouldn’t be possible. I’ve seen the gratitude in their eyes. They come to the after race meet just to say thanks and talk about their work. Their groundbreaking, incredble work. I’ve just a run a marathon yet I feel so humbled.

Why? Because I want my darling sister Claire to live. I want her to survive cancer, I need her to live, my brother needs her to live, her beautiful young family and husband need her to live, our mother needs her to live. Will my running these last few agonising kilometres help her? I must believe that, I do believe that, and not only Claire but thousands of others, maybe hundreds of thousands of others. Am I losing my mind? Is this deep, intense exhaustion confusing my thinking? Actually, no. No it’s not. This IS the why, absolutely. But I’m feeling it so more acutely now because of the extremes my mind and body are going through. The ’why’ is simply clearer, it’s pure and simple now. An undeniable truth. Emotion is bound to surface and it does. Tears now join the sweat. Good is being done and will continue to be done. I WILL get to the finish line.

There have been personal benefits as well. Of course there have. The training means I’m fitter and thinking more clearly about many other things in life as well. I’m more focused and positive and of course this good energy is felt among family and friends.
But is that what gets me through the agony of the last 5 kms? No, not at all. It’s certainly helped me train when the chips were down. But what gets me through this wall of pain is knowing how many good hearted people have donated to the charity, have put their faith in me to do this. I will not let them down. Nor the people who will benefit directly from this huge effort to reach the finish line.

Those first few short training runs in the bleak mid winter, that first offer of support and all those that came afterwards – it’s all lead to this defining moment. Me crossing that finishing line and knowing it was all so very worthwhile.

At the Burns Supper in January 2012 we launched the “GREAT Britain” 2012 Paralympic Appeal, coinciding with the year of the London 2012 Olympic & Paralympic Games. The aim of this joint initiative with the British Embassy was to raise HUF 11,000,000 to buy a specially equipped bus for Hungary’s Junior Paralympic Team.

Being a sport-related appeal we enlisted the aid of the Budapest Sport Office (BSI), organisers of the 19th K&H marathon and half-marathon relay held in June 2012. The staff at the BSI were extremely helpful, and together with our hospitality  sponsors we managed to host a tent on Parliament Square for the many companies and representatives of the diplomatic corps who donated money for this special cause and took part in one of the various marathon formats, either individually or as part of a team.

The appeal target was finally reached in October 2012, and the Citroën Jumper 33 L2H2 minibus was officially handed over to the Hungarian Paralympic Committee on 22 November 2012.

On this occasion, HE Mr Jonathan Knott, UK Ambassador to Hungary and Patron of the “GREAT Britain” 2012 Paralympic Appeal said: “With this joint project we wanted to demonstrate the importance of the rights of disabled people, and raise the awareness of how sport can enrich lives, increase confidence and develop community relations. We are proud that the United Kingdom is one of the champions of supporting people’s rights with disabilities. I will remain dedicated to continue actively supporting human rights in the future.”

President of the Hungarian Paralympic Committee, Zsolt Gömöri, emphasised how thankful the Committee was for the generous donation. Paralympic gold medal swimmer Tamás Sors showed the bus to the public and drove the vehicle’s first passengers around Széchenyi square.

The RBIF would like to thank the British Embassy and our corporate sponsors, particularly Vodafone, BP, Provident, Process Solutions and TG Italiano, for their fantastic assistance during the year in helping us bring this appeal to a successful conclusion.

Douglas Arnott, Chairman of the Paralympic Appeal Committee

To find out more about how it feels to run a marathon, this is the story of RBIF’s very own  Marathon Man.