Red Cross "Santa Claus Factory" produces gifts for the needy in Budapest

One of the busiest places in Budapest is a glass dome called "Santa Claus Factory" set up right next to Heroes' Square and the City Park. Of course, it does not produce Santa Clauses but rather serves as a place of collection for donations to be forwarded to those less fortunate in society. The project is organised by the Hungarian Red Cross as part of its Christmas charity programme. For the details, Sandor Laczko of Radio Budapest talked to Judit Forizs from the international department of the Hungarian Red Cross:

"It is a two storey building and on the ground floor are a number of Santa Clauses waiting for donations offered by companies, factories, and so on. Trucks at the exit are loaded with the already packed gifts that will be sent to different groups that were chosen by the Hungarian Red Cross in cooperation with local government. They are for people who live in various Red Cross shelters like those for the homeless and mothers with kids as well as people who have to spend Christmas in the hospital and many others."

You say there will be several Santa Clauses in the building?

"Yes, we planned to publicise this event. Every day from December 10-22, the building is open. On the first floor, Hungary's public television station reports on the various companies, organisations and individuals who offer donations for people who would otherwise not receive any gifts for Christmas. The role of the Santa Clauses is to receive the donations that come in from one side of the building and sort them out and pack them. The packed gifts are then put into other trucks on the other end of the building to be dispatched to the beneficiaries."

This is just one of the Red Cross' many activities at Christmas. What else do you do?

"This programme is launched by the Budapest branch of the Hungarian Red Cross, which runs most of the social welfare facilities in Budapest. We estimate that 65,000 children will be reached by our programmes - some 11,000 in Budapest alone. The value of the donations already made this Christmas is calculated at 63 million Hungarian forint.

"What we ask for is non-perishable food, toys, books, toiletries, cleaning supplies, candy and so on. These are the items collected at the Santa Claus Factory but usually these goods can also be used for any charity programme. Our beneficiaries find it difficult to purchase such goods. But since we are focusing on the Christmas holidays now, we appreciate some additional sweets or whatever is expected in a family on such an occasion."