Three Kings charity ‘virtual’ collection drive underway

Photo: Miroslav Zimmer / Czech Radio

The annual Three Kings Collection, the biggest charitable fundraising drive in the Czech Republic, officially gets underway on Wednesday. In a normal year – and the collection organised by Catholic charity Caritas has been going for two decades – children dressed as the “three wise men” Kašpar, Melichar and Baltazar would be carolling and leaving the initials ‘K + M + B’ above door frames as a blessing.

This is not a normal year, of course, due to the coronavirus pandemic. So, how is the collection proceeding with strict social-distancing measures? This year’s Three Kings Collection is a virtual one, seeking real results for people in need – not least the elderly and infirmed, who may feel more isolated now than ever.

Martin Pražák, director of the Ostrava branch of Caritas, told Czech Radio despite there being no carollers on the streets, the charity is hopeful the 2021 drive will still raise a record amount.

“The possibilities to contribute are still broad. Caritas Czech Republic had anticipated the situation could occur and prepared an online collection. People can decide for themselves how much to contribute.

“There are twenty deposit boxes in Ostrava alone, in city district offices, in churches and some shops. People can also send a classic donor SMS – depending on how they want to contribute. Every crown helps, and we are grateful for all donations.”

Photo: Andrea Filičková / Czech Radio

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the charity fundraiser is perhaps more important than ever this year. Apart from raising money for worthy causes, the Three Kings procession was a chance for communities to come together, especially for children and seniors.

Caritas has prepared videos of children dressed up as the “three wise men” singing carols and making the traditional ‘K + M + B’ blessing on doors, and Czech public television will broadcast the Three Kings Charity Concert (but with adult musicians and singers only).

Recognising that the virtual aspect of the charity drive could hamper collections, the effort has been extended greatly from the normal two weeks, notes Martin Pražák of Caritas Ostrava.

“The virtual Three Kings Collection will last until April 30, and if the PES coronavirus risk index drops from the fifth to fourth degree, we could take to the streets. There are 350 carol groups ready in Ostrava. And the in-person Three Kings collection would run until January 24.”

Last year, some 70,000 volunteers took part in the organising the collection and carolling. Caritas raised 133.8 million crowns throughout the country, which went for example to provide hospice services and rebuild day centres for the infirmed. This year, Caritas Ostrava hopes to use the funds, for example, to give out clothing and renovate a soup kitchen.