Hungary ain’t Africa, and while it is a poor country by Western standards you are unlikely to find yourself experiencing your pleasures guiltily or having your heartstrings tugged around every corner.
You are in any case contributing to an economy that relies heavily on tourism simply by visiting the place, travelling responsibly, spending your dollars and extolling Hungary’s charms to others on your return home. However, if you do want to give something more there are plenty of charities and projects that would receive your help very gratefully. Which you choose will depend entirely on your personal interests and cares.
The Foundation for School Meals (Gyermekétkeztetési Alapítvány; XX Budapest, Mária utca 3; 1 283 2510; www.gyea.hu) assists poor and hungry children, many of which are from the Roma community (which remains a deeply hard-pressed and impoverished minority). Children are also the priority for the Education for Blind Children (Vakok Szolgáltató Központja; XIV Budapest, Ajtósi sor 39; 1 363 3343; www.vakisk.hu) and the Károlyi István Children’s Centre (Gyermekközpont; web in English: www.gyermekkozpont.hu). The Foundation for the Women of Hungary (Magyarországi Noi Alapítvány; web in English: www.monahungary.org) provides support to women in violent relationships, while the White Cross (in English: 06 20 958 2545; www.feherkeresztliga.hu) does excellent work rounding up the absurdly high number (two million) of domestic moggies and pooches that go astray annually in Hungary.
If you’re a naturalist, you could consider assisting WWF Hungary (XIV Budapest, Álmos Vezér útja 69/a; 1 214 5554; firstname.lastname@example.org), which has operated here for a decade. Its activities are focused towards the conservation of forests, rivers and endangered fauna, and on helping the country meet the environmental challenges of EU membership.
Field projects involve species like the wolf, beaver, lynx and European pond turtle, but equally significant are the attempts to revive the traditional agriculture of floodplains in the Middle Tisza region and the southernmost reaches of the Danube. Volunteer groups are vital to such work, and have so far assisted in constructing nature trails, surveying hiking resorts in the Buda Hills and studying European pond turtles.
Hungary Conservation Volunteers organises an excellent programme for those who wish to get actively involved in the monitoring of key European butterfly species (including the large copper and anomalus blue) and in the management of their habitat. Contact the Butterfly Conservation Head Office (Manor Yard, East Lulworth, Wareham, Dorset BH20 5QP; 0870 774 4309; www.butterfly-conservation.org).