Czech Radio’s charity project helping cheer up lonely seniors

Photo: Olga Štrejbarová

Czech Radio has launched a fourth edition of its nationwide charity project called Ježíškova vnoučata or Santa’s Grandchildren. It aims to encourage members of the public to grant the elderly living in social facilities a wish as a special Christmas gift. Its organizers say helping seniors during the coronavirus crisis is more important than ever.

The current coronavirus outbreak has been particularly hard for the senior population. Not only are the elderly most vulnerable to the virus, but they are also threatened by social isolation and loneliness. The situation is particularly hard for those living in pensioners homes, which have been closed to visitors for weeks.

One of the ways to cheer them up and bring a smile to their faces is to take part in the project Santa’s Grandchildren. How does it work? There is a website with a list of wishes, be they material gifts or experiences, and volunteers simply chose the wish they want to grant.

The project also aims to interconnect generations, so in the previous editions, volunteers handed their presents over to the people in person.

Due to the current situation, such meetings won’t be possible this year, but the organizers have found other ways to connect the elderly with their benefactors.

Gabriela Drastichová is the head of Czech Radio’s Endowment Fund, which is behind the project:

“This year, the presents will be handed to the elderly by their caretakers. But we will still be able to meet them through video-calls. In some homes, there will also be special rooms with a dividing glass, where we can meet the seniors face-to-face and talk to them over a microphone.”

The fourth edition of the project Santa’s Grandchildren was launched just four days ago and more than 8,000 people have already signed up to grant elderly people’s wishes. There are currently nearly 9,000 wishes and most of them have already been reserved.

In the previous years, many of the wishes involved some kind of experiences, from visiting the people’s native village to going on a trip. Dargmar Dratsichová says that despite the complicated situation, even such wishes can come true:

Photo: Olga Štrejbarová

“We can grant wishes that take place outside, such as outdoor concerts in front of the old age homes. The wishes that cannot be granted now can be postponed until spring, when, hopefully, caretaker facilities will open to visitors again.”

One of the more unusual wishes in the previous editions was a ride on a Harley or a parachute jump for a 84-year-old lady. Miroslav Parolek, one of the project’s organizers, says this year, people have mostly modest wishes:

“For example, one lady has only asked for a packet of smarties. There are also a lot of collective wishes, such as a fundraising campaign for the clients of one old age home, who wish to build a sheep fold.”

The project Santa’s Grandchildren is open to volunteers until December 24.