November 23, 2020 – Backed by four diligent women, a Croatian donor community on Facebook called Čarolija darivanja (The Magic of Giving) has been giving birthday presents to neglected children and the elderly in nursing homes for five years now with the help of generous donors.
As the most beautiful and noble time of the year, Christmas, approaches, many are already starting to think about what to give to their loved ones. Even the slightest sign of attention given with love can cheer someone up, but what about those people who, unfortunately, can’t get that under their tree? In this pre-holiday time, some remember neglected children and people in nursing homes, but what about the rest of the year?
To bring a smile back to their faces for the rest of the year, and not just for Christmas, five years ago a Facebook page called Čarolija darivanja (The Magic of Giving) was launched to enable generous people to give birthday presents to the neediest. These are primarily children in homes for neglected children, as well as in homes without adequate parental care, and grandparents in homes for the elderly and infirm.
Croatians are already known for their generosity, and this commendable action is proof that there are still good people ready to help. This big giving initiative was even recognized for its humanitarian character and won the Ponos Hrvatske (Pride of Croatia) award.
Four diligent women who stand behind this project explain how giving works and therefore how the “magic” is made.
Can you tell us more about this project?
The Magic of Giving is a Facebook page that can be joined by anyone who is able and wants, from the bottom of their heart, to donate presents to a completely unknown person from a children’s or nursing home. There are several types of magic happening here – giving, sharing happiness, caring for other people, doing good deeds.
The Magic team consists of four women who – in addition to their jobs, families, children, pets, and everyday life – handle wish lists of children and the elderly and are in contact with their homes, and people who send gifts: Mirta who lives in Barcelona, Silvia who lives in Sarajevo, Marina who lives in Ilok, and Sanja who lives in Zagreb.
Our community, which counts as many as 40,000 followers, recently celebrated its 5th birthday!
How does giving work? Who can participate and how?
At the top of our Facebook page, we have a post titled “How to Participate?” where everything is explained in detail for all the new fairies and elves, as we call people who donate.
Every month, we publish lists of birthday wishes and needs of children from homes or associations, who are without adequate parental care (without parents or growing up with parents, but in an unenviable situation). Sometimes we also publish lists with the common needs of children (for example hygiene supplies, school supplies, etc). We also publish the birthday wishes of the elderly people placed in nursing homes.
At the top of each list is the title (which month and home), and below is a list with ordinal numbers, names/initials of the children and elderly, date of birth, and birthday wishes. People then write in the comments to whom they want to send a present and that’s it. We always recommend that they send sweets and greeting cards with gifts.
All gifts are sent directly to the addresses of the homes, from people to children or elderly, so we only do the communication. For any doubts, the necessary information for sending is written at the bottom of each list, as well as the contact person from the home with a phone number.
From the beginning, we decided that we do not want to have anything to do with money or payment to our accounts (to avoid negative connotations), and this proved to be a great solution.
The “Magic” team: Marina, Sanja, Silvia, and Mirta / Private archive
Where did the idea for this project come from?
The story started before Christmas in 2015 when the Facebook page was called Christmas Gift Giving to Children Without Proper Parental Care. Mirta came up with the idea when her son told her he wanted an excavator and then a truck as a Christmas present. She was thinking, who would fulfill all these wishes for children who do not have parents? She had heard of a boy who had gathered friends the year before, and they made wishes of children from one home come true. She thought we could do a lot more with Facebook.
She presented the idea to our former colleague Katarina, she liked it, and the two of them set off. They contacted the children’s home Klasje from Osijek, they were scared when the principal told them that they had over 100 children, so they asked her not to get angry if they failed because they did not count on such a large number.
They ended the Christmas magic with about 2,000 presents, tired, but happy. In agreement with the homes, they gave up further Christmas magic and continued with the Birthday magic. In homes, almost everyone said that all people remember them over Christmas, but then during the year it somehow subsides. The Birthday magic seemed like the real thing! And given the response from the people, it was the right thing to do.
Do you call the homes or do they call you?
At the very beginning, we contacted and worked only with orphanages. We called them all, explained the story, and slowly joined in one by one. Two years later, in late 2017, Teresa (who was in the team at the time) came up with the idea to extend the story to homes for the elderly and infirm. Again, we contacted all the nursing homes ourselves. This time it was easier because we already had a two-year story behind us and a lot of orphanages that could confirm that everything was working well. A year and a half ago, we received calls from homes that did not immediately join the story but now want to be a part of the magic.
How many children and grandparents have you donated to so far? How many homes? Are they always the same or are they changing?
Throughout the year, we track how many gifts are sent monthly, which is a little over 500 packages. So, during the year, over 6000 gifts are sent. We monitor about 50 homes for children, half-day stays, and other accommodation for children, and about 30 homes for the elderly and infirm.
All of you live in different cities and countries – how do you work together?
Since everything is online, there are no problems, moreover, it is much easier and faster. Of course, smartphones, with which you can be online at any time, and handle lists and emails, also help a lot. We don’t feel at all that we’re far away because we’re in contact with each other every day and comment on everything. We have a WhatsApp group chat where we exchange messages. All four of us follow the lists of children’s wishes as well as the wishes of the elderly, publish them on the page, follow who has chosen which child, grandparents, and update the lists.
Do you get feedback from homes, children, and the elderly?
Cooperation with homes is very successful and we are grateful that they meet our needs to the maximum, despite the many obligations they have. Homes designate a contact person whose mobile phone number we can publish on the list and then that person answers donors to numerous inquiries related to gifts, goes to the post office to pick up the package, takes care of whether the gift has arrived or not, delivers lists to us by e-mail and the like. The users themselves sometimes directly contact the people who sent them present to thank them, which is a wonderful experience.
You were also named Ponos Hrvatske (Pride of Croatia). How much does that recognition mean to you?
We would like to emphasize that, although we received the award, it certainly would not have been possible without all the people who helped the Magic to exist for such a long time. We try to give a personal note to the Facebook page and the community – we confirm every gift application with “Thank you”, we are available almost 24/7, and we try to solve every problem that arises as quickly and as well as possible.
It is very important to us that everything is transparent and people appreciate that. Maybe that’s the reason for the success. We are also glad to see how the Magic spreads so each person involved is a kind of example to their friends and acquaintances.
We want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who participates! It is very nice to see that there are still many good people and that volunteering and good deeds are recognized in our society.
Ponos Hrvatske is the award for people who have shown exceptional humanity through their actions, inspired others, or done something that sets an example for others, whether it is saving lives, great kindness or incredible courage.
What is your wish for the future – maybe expansion, something else?
We have no concrete wishes except that everything goes as it has so far. Five years ago, we never dreamed that we would have so many people who follow us, and not only follow but send gifts and cheer up children and the elderly in homes. Our lists close in 10 minutes so we would be ungrateful if we wanted anything more than what we have now thanks to all the good people!
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