Last fall Katinka Szabó, eleventh-year student at the Vasvári Pál Grammar School at Székesfehérvár, have decided to start the +1 Sandwich program at her school. Just like that, all on her own! She has gotten in contact with the local institutions where sandwiches would be welcome, figured out how to distribute donations, and finally she has announced the start of the collection to the other students.

It is truly amazing the way Katinka has been keeping the whole project together ever since. Read our interview with her!

Where did you get the idea to introduce the +1 Sandwich project at your school?

– I have spotted Bike Maffia’s booth at Waldorfest, amongst beer and sunshine. After talking to Zoli, who was standing by their booth it has become clear to me that if I wanted to do something (and I really did!), then the +1 Sandwich project would be the best and easiest project to execute in my area. So it was basically a stroke of luck since living in the countryside I have never heard of the Bike Mafia before that. Then in the summer I have asked around, sent a few emails, visited homeless shelters and by October, everything was ready for me to get started with the project.

What was the biggest challenge when you got started?

– My bike! My classmates and I have painted a very nice royal blue box, resembling the coat of arms of the city, which I use to gather the sandwiches on Friday.

But seriously, this box looks so cool that it made me want to keep trying to use a quite cumbersome mode of transport where I would use bungee cords to fix the box to the back of my bike and just fervently pray while pedaling that I don’t end up losing sandwiches while running over potholes. Jokes aside though, the biggest challenge in the project to date is motivating my schoolmates. Not to be critical, but middle schoolers can be so incredibly apathetic! Who knows how much they spend daily on coffee and chocolates, but after half a year many of them have still failed to even notice that we are collecting sandwiches every week. I keep pestering the members of the student association, but even that is often in vain – with respect for the exceptions of course.

In essence, it’s a bit like pissing in the wind. But probably all volunteers in the world struggle with the same feeling; it doesn’t matter how hard you work, you cannot change everyone.

Fortunately, there are people who are eager to bring in their extra every week, and it is worth it for that handful of people. Oddly enough, most people don’t even realize what an awesome thing it is to help others, often not even those who contribute with, say, a sandwich.

How many sandwiches do you gather, on average? Where and how do you take the donations?

– Approximately 45 sandwiches per week, but there are highs and lows as well. I do keep thinking about how I could do more, how could I make everyone more aware of this pressing social issue. I usually take the sandwiches to a homeless shelter for women which is near my school. However, since there are no more than two dozen people there, if I have more than that, I take the rest to the men’s shelter and warming center next to where I live. Usually I walk there, and I carry the sandwiches in a big bag, but on weeks where we manage to collect a lot or like when we have collected toiletries, a teacher took the donations there by car. She is one who has offered to help when I started the project back in the fall, and I can always count on her if the weather is bad or if there is any other issue. But I have met and spoken to many other nice people as well since I got started, which is another reason to keep going even when I don’t happen to collect as many sanwiches as I would hope.

Congratulations to Katinka, hats off to her for her efforts!