Ildi Tóth

Ildi Tóth is the coordinator of EU Projects in the Budapest Bike Maffia (BBM) team. In 2019, she went to Brussels in connection with the ‘Intercultural Biking for Helping’ project which she conceived, because it was selected by the European Union as a model project. She is one of our most energetic members who besides coordinating with volunteers from abroad, is an enthusiastic member of ‘Vitamin Kommandó’, and also gives presentations in English to corporate employees and students.

You’re in charge of an international volunteer programme at Budapest Bike Maffia, you work at British International School Budapest (BISB), you participate in a number of other volunteer programmes abroad, and of course you travel a lot. Am I right to think that the English language, travelling, and generally being ‘international’ is also your hobby and passion?

I have been travelling since I was a child and the international environment has been an influential part of my life. Until my last year at university, German and Russian were my most used foreign languages but this has now shifted to the daily use of German and English. I used to travel a lot with orchestras, dance groups and acting troupes which I was a member of until the end of my studies. Since then, I can’t actually think of a time when I haven’t been working in an international environment of some kind. At BISB where I work now, there are students from more than 50 countries! I believe that the creation of a better future begins with getting to know, understanding and appreciating differences in every domain. A personal objective to my volunteering and travelling to manage international projects is to get to know the everyday lives of people and then sharing these experiences when I present and speak about projects and experiences with others.

How did you join BBM and how did the project presented in Brussels and your participation in European Youth Week 2019 come to be?

I returned to live in Budapest in the summer of 2016 and I read about BBM’s initiative called ‘Krízis’ in December. They were collecting donations of warm clothes for people in need. I packed a few sweaters and coats and I took them along to the BBM’s headquarters. A couple of days later, I saw one of the sweaters (which was unmistakeably recognizable, since I inherited it from my grandpa) on Andrássy Street, worn by a man who lived there. That’s when I decided that I would join BBM. In the beginning, I only helped with ‘Vitamin Kommandó’ and with presentations given in English, but in the spring of 2017, I found out that the BBM was going to participate in the ‘Erasmus+’ programme of the European Commission as a receiving organization. I offered to write a project using my experience during the previous ten years of working in the youth field. BBM received three foreign volunteers in 2018 for nine months in the context of this project. It was the aforementioned ‘Intercultural Biking for Helping’, which was chosen as a model project by the European Commission in March 2019. The opportunity to introduce ourselves to the European Parliament and talk to thousands of people about our activity. It was a thrilling experience!

You do a variety of voluntary work at BBM. For instance, during the coronavirus period, masks were delivered to shelters for the homeless thanks to your work and coordination. Do you have a favourite project, task or activity?

My favourite was of course my own project. 🙂 Nevertheless, I have been far from idle since it ended. Last year, I assisted with interviewing the authors in the MyBudapest Photo Project. What I really liked about this project was that we got to acquaint ourselves personally with the subjects: I learnt a lot about their everyday lives that I could share with others, for example, with students at BISB during an assembly about ‘Sensitivity’.

In my opinion, one of our best projects in Vitamin Kommandó. For many volunteers, this is their first connection with BBM. During these occasions, we are able to share with them the story of BBM and what it means to us helping those in need on a regular basis. Sharing over experiences also helps us to deal with what we see and experience during our volunteer activities. Often it can be quite upsetting and thought provoking.

More recently, “mask coordination” as I call it, seemed a bit hopeless. With a tremendous demand of masks for everyone, establishing connections with voluntary seamstresses was challenging. Thankfully, more and more people checked in with us to offer this help. After a couple of weeks, we were out delivering masks to those who needed them, and everything went very smoothly. This enormous collaborative joint effort was wonderful to be part of and its impact was hugely important given the challenging circumstances we are all facing with Covid-19.

What do you like the most about BBM? Do you have a favourite memory from the past few years?

The team at BBM consists of both regular members and people who join us for just one occasion whilst they are visiting Budapest. Our common goal is to help people in need. This is not necessarily easy all the time, both physically and emotionally, but BBM is a real community. We all support each other and the outcomes of our collective energy and effort, no matter how small or large, can be see immediately on the streets and in the housing shelters of Budapest.

The list of my memories is very long, but the most predominant one involved someone living on the streets. About two years ago, I started visiting Flórián Square regularly, to distribute food, clothes and blankets to a group of homeless people who lived there. I visited them every week, I knew their names, and they often told me what it was they needed. Over time, they shared with me their personal stories, how they found themselves living on the streets, and how they were struggling to find their way back into society. Several months later, all of a sudden, they were no longer in the subway anymore. It took me a while to find out why they were not living there. One of them managed to find a job; he became a security guard at a building site where he also had accommodation, another was given a permanent place at a homeless shelter, a third had moved in with a sibling in a rural area of Hungary. I have met two of them since and they thanked me several times for my help. They emphasized to me that whilst the donations of food and clothing were crucial, they were most grateful for me treating them as human beings. Taking the time to engage in conversation with them was in part the beginning of their journey towards a better life. I believe this is an example of what it means to help others no matter how little that may seem, either as a BBM volunteer or just a caring person.


+1 Sandwich – Summary of the 2019/2020 school year

As the end of 2019/2020 school year is near, we would like to say thank you for all the participants of the +1 Sandwich project – students, parents, teachers, and messengers. The people in need around the city got more and more food week by week because of the helpers fantastic work.

Unfortunately we had to suspend the collection in March because of the epidemic. But our numbers are showing the incredible power of this program. Despite of the two month loss we are very close to our last school year’s result:

– Sandwiches: 28.200 pieces
– Fruits: 610 kg
– Non-perishable food: 420 kg
– and a whale of soaps, warm jumpers, scarves, and caps
45 institution participated in the program; not only schools, but universities, nursery schools, and a private company joined to the project this year
– particularly pleased for a student’s initiation at Székesfehérvár now our program is running out of Budapest from Autumn (Székesfehérvári Vasvári Pál Gimnázium)

Huge thanks for all of you once more! We can hardly wait to meet you (in the usual way) in the next school year!

Participated schools and nurseries

AKG Kiscelli
Batthyány Lajos Általános Iskola
Bethlen Gábor Általános Iskola és Gimnázium,
Bethlen Gábor Ált. Isk. és Újreál Gimnázium Kincskereső Tagiskola
BKSzC Gundel Károly Szakképző Iskolája
Budapest II.Kerületi II. Rákóczi Ferenc Gimnázium
Budapesti Eötvös József Gimnázium
Budapesti Fazekas Mihály Gyakorló Általános Iskola és Gimnázium
Budapesti Gazdasági Szakképzési Centrum II. Rákóczi Ferenc Közgazdasági
BZSH Külkereskedelmi Szakgimnázium
Corvin Mátyás Gimnázium és Szakközépiskola
Csillagberek Waldorf Általános Iskola és AMI
Csillagház Általános Iskola
Derkovits Gyula Általános Iskola
ELTE Apáczai Csere János Gyakorlógimnázium
ELTE Radnóti Miklós Gyakorlóiskola
ELTE Trefort Ágoston Gyakorlóiskola
Gustave Eiffel Francia Óvoda, Ált. Isk és Gimnázium
Hegedüs Géza Ált. Isk
Herman Ottó Általános Iskola
Jedlik Ányos Gimnázium
Kempelen Farkas Gimnázium
Kőbányai Szent László Gimnázium
Kőrösi Csoma Sándor Két Tanítási Nyelvű Baptista Gimnázium
Kodolányi János Egyetem
Leövey Klára Gimnázium
Németh László Gimnázium
Óbudai Waldorf Gimnázium
Poli: Közgazdasági Politechnikum Alternatív Gimnázium és Szakközépiskola
Sashalmi Waldorf Iskola
Sashegyi Arany János Általános Iskola és Gimnázium
Székesfehérvári Vasvári Pál Gimnázium
Semmelweis Egyetem
Toldy Ferenc Gimnázium
Újbudai József Attila Gimnázium
Újpesti Babits Mihály Gimnázium
Városmajori Gimnázium
Veres Pálné Gimnázium
XIV. Kerületi Liszt Ferenc Általános Iskola
Zuglói Arany János Ált. Isk és AMI
Zuglói Hajós Alfréd Magyar-Német Két Tanítási Nyelvű Iskola
Zuglói Kincskereső Óvoda
Zuglói Napraforgó Óvoda


-BMSZKI: Dózsa, Táblás, Aszódi, Kálvária,
-Menhely Alapítvány: Vajdahunyad, Kürt
-Máltai: Miklós utca
-Oltalom Karitatív Egyesület – Dankó utca
-Menedékház Alapítvány
-Golgota Budapest Nappali melegedő
-Myrai Egyesület
-XXI. kerületi Vöröskereszt
-Baptista Integrációs Központ


Dénes Annaházi

Dénes Annaházi appears in Budapest Bike Maffia’s various programmes. Sometimes he makes sandwiches in the Vitamin Kommandó and he hops on his bike to deliver those sandwiches with the team. Other times, he shoots some photos to catch the best moments during the BBM events. But, if needed he packs, delivers, coordinates. During the virus situation he took part in coordinating fundraising. Last time, he helped in preparing the deliveries of Mother’s Day donations.

Dénes, based on your Facebook posts, we can tell that the Bike Maffia is an important part in your life. You often post about programmes and events you attend. What’s your story? How did you find the team?

There is not much plot twist in my story. I’ve followed the Bike Maffia’s actions on Facebook already. On one of our company event there were around 10-15 kg orange what was left and I wrote to the team whether they would accept them, so that we didn’t have to throw the fruit out. This was in December, 2016. So I went there, stood in the corner and David, who led one of the two Vitamin Kommandó programmes then, came over to me and told me what were they doing and he thanked the stuff I brought. Since this short chat was really pleasent, I’ve decided to come to the next sandwich making event. At that time there was the winter Krízis!, so there was no time to look around or getting to know people. Nobody asked who are you, what do you want, where are you from, what do you do. There’s the bread, the butter, the meat, do it! This just suited me. From then on, two Vitamin events in one week was default for me. The bike was already my means of transport, I brought empathy from my upbringing and  then my camera was there, so me being there in every occasion was not a question. The team and the atmosphere caught me and since then I try to take part and have a taste in everything. My pictures, amongst Insta and Facebook, have appeared in other press fields, which is really flattering. So this is the story and I hope it won’t end for many many years.

We have already asked two volunteers about the Vitamin Kommandó, and asked Noémi Poós as well, who is the project manager of the Kommandó. You are also a permanent member of the team, you take part in almost every event, making or delivering the sandwiches. Why is this community important to you?

Vitamin is the basic project for me, mainly because of the cycling, the team and thanks to Noémi, because of the music that is played by Agnostic Front during the sandwich making process. And helping is always good. I mean, we often hear about inconceivable stories, lives, but at least we do something that can help and make the lives of the people need a little bit better. Besides this, a really great team has been built and it is not just a work connection anymore, we often came together and go cycling in the weekends, organize common programmes, go to pubs or cook together. We can count on each other’s help in all occasions and that is really important.

You take photos, make videos in our events, programmes regularly. To name a few, on the exhibition opening of the My Budapest Photo Project, the Charity Fest, the exhibition of the book, Tekerj!, and many other bike events. You see the programmes from the outside and from the inside. What was the most memorable picture or moment you caught? And which was the event that sticked with you the most?

The photo machine is always with me, of course, that’s my other favourite device beside the bike. There are many many pictures, I don’t think I could pick one. But, there’s one picture which we used to the 1% donation. There, a guy is giving a sandwich to a person in need, that picture is in the TOP 100.

The first Charity Fest had the biggest impact on me. I really saw there how colossal events can we organize if we join forces with other organizations, and people love these events. The second Charity Fest was even more impressive in Dürer and there was no doubt that slowly everybody will hear about us. This is awesome.

Last time, you organized a donation on Mother’s Day. What was this exactly? What kind of donations did you bring and where? What was your job?

The Mother’s Day donation was the first time where I was trusted with the coordination part of the project. We’ve prepared 400 packs, there were biscuits, syrup, pasta, chocolate, bolognese powder and juice in them. Volunteers have portioned them, and along with parent homes, foundations and hostels delivered them. It was an enormous help that we’ve found volunteers to every task, from preparing to delivering. People really help in everything. It was a good experience to complete the project from the beginning to the end. In case of helping, everybody is open and grateful.

If somebody asks you about the Bike Maffia, because of your photos and posts, what do you say what it is like to volunteer here?

I have never volunteered anywhere else before, but I’m sure this is the best organization! It has everything that is needed. The bike, the music, the people, and we can pamper our souls that we have done some good. Of course, I could say, it’s easy for us, because we have homes to go, money on our cards, we have families. But this is exactly why it is our duty to sacrifice our time and our energy to help other people. So, I suggest to everybody to volunteer and there are many opportunities if we look around. There are better and better organizations who are trying to make the world a better place, those who help children, who support people living in extreme poverty,  who are trying to accomodate people who have drifted away from the periphery. We are not the only ones, there is the Amigos, the ULE, the Food Not Bombs, the Heti Bevető, the Age of Hope, just to name a couple of organizations. Be a volunteer, the world needs us! That’s all folks.

Picture: Dénes Annaházi


Bridges instead of wedges – weekly report

Besides we need to say thank you for many people, we would like to tell about how many helpful and unselfish promoters we meet nowadays during the crisis situation.

It is unbelievable how jumping power the epidemic has. It is good to see how much we can do together, and how the emergency situation can get out the good will from people.

We could hardly believe, but the news are true! The segítsünkegymá got us together with super supporters for the second time. This time our cargo cycle vehicle park flared with an electric car and a van for the next three months. Big thank you for that to the MVM Group and Hotel Residence Ózon superior team, elbow bump for the coordination to  Önkéntességet és Adományozást Koordináló Akciócsoport. This match would not exist without them.

The Hotel Residence Ózon supported us with money donation too, so we plan to reach out to legging settlements in the summer, and take donations for 3H (highly disadvantaged) families. We are very grateful, as their support make it real. The ones who know Bike Maffia, know too that we are acting mainly in Budapest. But we get several requests from the countryside, from individuals and local governments too. Now we will have the opportunity to reach out for more places.

We have further plans as well. We would like to give something for the social workers too. They are the ones, who are working in the front line from the beginning of the epidemic. Although the epidemic starts to falloff, we can not forget that they are doing a very important work every single day of the year.

The first ride of the van will go to families’ permanent shelter, and children’s home. Universal Children’s Day is coming, and disadvantaged children should get gifts too.

Still, helping the homeless people in Budapest is our main project. The UID Hungary Turkish civil society organization helped us a lot in doing that. They took very seriously that bottled water is very important for the ones who are live on the street. Literally, they flooded us an ocean of mineral water, and 300 packs of instant soup. 

We have a shortage of masks. Even if we had enough, single-use masks are not affordable solution for many people, as its price doubled. The Varrjunk maszkot! national, volunteer community, and the Összefogás-Maszk készítés volunteer sewers got together and worked hard from the beginning of May. 13 homeless shelters got the 1500 washable masks they have already made. Bike Maffia volunteers made the coordination and delivering part.

The Brótpékség is helping us from April, so our volunteers can deliver fresh bread and pastries to 3 shelters. We helped more than 60 families in 4 days a week, and we could take pastries twice a week into warmers too, to ease the mornings.

Who we helped: 

BMSZKI institutions, Public Foundation for the Homeless, SZÉRA Social and Rehabilitation Foundation, Oltalom Charity Society, Kiút Association, Jó Szívvel Foundation, Golgota Homeless Shelter

Finally, we would like to say thank you to Zhao Zhou Tea Kft too. They gave us masks, and they thought of the Maffia team as well, we got nice refreshing teas as surprise. Teas made us more dynamic.

Gearing up against Coronavirus could build bridge between individuals, civil society organizations, companies, and local governments.

Would you help us? VitaminBoom project is still running. If you would like to join our voluteer team, check in here. If you would donate, you can do it here. Thank you!


Those that did not make the news – weekly report

As we have promised during our Friday check-in: we are providing a summary of the events ot the past week. Another wonderful collaboration came to pass and we have broken a record – but we’ll get to all of that in order.

Vitamin Commando is on the move again. Albeit only in small numbers for the time being, but they are roaming the streets again on Wednesdays and Fridays.

It is great news that a team of couriers from Piroska Kommandó has joined us recently to help with the distribution of sandwiches on Thursdays. They have a busy schedule: in addition to food, they are also delivering face masks. Elbow bump, guys! Together we can deliver a lot more food packages to those in need!

We have also broken a record this week: we have handed out more than 50,000 doses of vitamins since the state of emergency was declared. A significant part of this amount was raised from corporate donations and the rest with the help of private donors.

Celanese Hungary has been supporting our work for years now. Thanks to them we have been able to help Oltalom Charity Society with a donation of 200,000 HUF worth of non-perishable food. How did we manage this? It took many, many emails and nearly a month of consultation. But the result speaks for itself: 25 liters of cooking oil, 100 kg (200 packs) of pasta, 50 kg of rice, 60 kg potatoes and 30 kg smoked meat. This may sound like a lot, but when we are talking of feeding hundreds of people, it is only enough for about three or four days – even supplemented with additional ingredients from the kitchen of Oltalom.

An unusual meeting took place in the parking lot of Táblás Street shelter, the place where we have pitched our fundraising tent at the beginning of March. Employees of UID Hungary (a Turkish non-governmental organization) has arrived, loaded up with donations. They brought 50 face masks, 84 cartons of mineral water (which is very valuable for people living on the streets), cleaning products and what has quickly proven to be the biggest hit: three trays full of baklava! Not to mention that they have also contributed with a donation of 200,000 HUF, which will go a long way in ensuring that we can buy more food and disinfectants – whatever might be needed.

The members of UID has found us with the help of the website segítünkegymá Thank you very much for getting in touch with us!

Mother’s Day would not be forgotten this year either. We have prepared and handed out 400 packages to the mothers and grandmothers living in maternity homes, halfway houses and homeless shelters.

Red Cross’s gift of 6,500 Sport szelet chocolate bars was more that enough for all the Mothers’ Day packages, and the rest we have distributed amongst the residents of shelters and those living on the streets. Sport szelet is a great favourite, always a success with everyone.

Keep it in mind for the next time you meet a homeless person and you wish to bring them joy; a chocolate bar is always a great gift!

We have helped:

The Hungarian Charity Service of the Order of Malta – Halfway house for families at Zugló; From Streets to Homes Association; Good Sheperd Maternity home; Establishments of the Budapest Methodological Centre of Social Policy and Its Institutions (BMSZKI); Kontur Public Benefit Association / Hős street;  Konkáv Community Space and Prevention Workshop; Oltalom Charity Society

Many thanks to the creators of the Quaranteen Canteen cookbook and to everyone who has bought the book. It is thanks to these offerings that we were able to buy the necessary supplies for the packages that we handed out: coffee, chocolate, biscuits, organic syrup, juice, pasta and bolognese sauce. A special thanks to them for also thinking of the doctors and nurses working hard for all of us in the front-line, day and night! They have prepared 600 packages for our health workers, which – among other things – contained sourdough bread baked by the city’s best bakers.

This has been our past week and we will just keep going! Our experience tells us that we must be prepared for more and more people to end up homeless, especially those who have already been precariously close to the periphery before the current crisis. As a result of the pandemic, many have lost their jobs through no fault of their own, and became unable to pay for housing. Due to the current regulations however, it is next to impossible for anyone to gain admittance into a shelter presently – and as a result, these people have literaly nowhere to go. In these times we must think not only of the homeless, but of all these people as well!

Thanks to everyone who has contributed to make life a little easier for those in need!

The VitaminBoom Project continues – if you wish to join us as a volunteer, you may apply here, and if you would like to support us you can do that here. Thank you for your help!


Big thanks to our Supporters!

There has been critical situations more than once in the last nine years of the history of Bike Maffia that needed immediate reaction and solution.
There is a huge logistical job behind each and every successful action. And we are happy to tell now that our VitaminBoom action, that we started almost one and a half month ago, at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemy, has been an increadibly successful movement.

But back to the logistics: if there is a crisis, we need to find out in the first who is exactly the one that needs help, how we can give the help that is needed, and who is the one that can support us in an efficient way.
There are lots of institutions where there is possibility for one or two warm meals a day on weekdays, but not at the weekends. Besides this, the inhabitants of many of the shelters have lost their jobs due to restrictions, or cannot even go outside as a consequence of the lockdowns. Every case needs an individual and a different solution.

We have had live stream reports many times in the last few weeks either about collections or distributions of donations. That you could see on the videos – trunks loaded with donations, full cargo bikes – is the result of countless calls and emails, co-operation with firms, donators and social institutions that has been build up in years, and a result of mutual confidence and a strong desire to do something.

It helps a lot that we can firmly count on the volunteers and supporters of Bike Maffia in this present situation as always.

But this writing is about our Supporters. Huge thanks to both the private and corporate contributors! We could not have achieved all this without you. Thanks for all the help, it is amazing to know that we are not alone!

We have received lots of corporate donations in the form of food, vitamins, sanitary and cleaning items.

Mobilsofa, Scitec Nutrition, Renewtech.coCycle, Szappanos Gábor almatermelő, HungaroControl, GLOVE TRANS, Complexpressz, MITKÓ, Bagaboo,  A varrócsapat: Bene Réka, Balogh Tímea, Boros Anikó, Luca; Tóthné Bagó Katalin őstermelő Galgahévíz, Bérczes Nóra,  Brót pékség, Három Tarka Macska pékség, Marcsika palacsintázója Tajti Mária-Csert-Szak Kft., Office Depot, Celanese, Decathlon, Drogerie Markt, Makk Kati szappanfőző, Unilever

Many private contributors have supported the needy people with direct remittance via our donation site.

Others helped us with buying vouchers, and we could buy food, vitamins, handkerchiefs and hand desinfectants for almost 1.300.000 HUF in this way. And we are going to spend another one million forints in the next week. For what? Check out our facebook site, we are coming with live stream reports all the time.

We have visited not only homeless shelters with the donations, but many other social institutions as well, like temporary homes for families, homes for the elderly and boarding institutions, the inhabitants of which are mainly older people and/or those with a weak immune system.

And here are those organisations we have co-operated with and that have helped us a lot in our work. Some of the fantastic co-operations that had already existed have become stronger, others have beem established just now. High nudge to them: Vöröskereszt, Age of Hope, Egészségkonyha, Hokedli, Tündérpakk alapítvány!

Those we could help:  

Menhely Alapítvány, Oltalom Karitatív Egyesület, BMSZKI számos intézménye, Menedékház Alapítvány, Twist Olivér Alapítvány, Isola éjjeli menedék – Léthatáron Alapítvány, Baptista Szeretetszolgálat REVIP Hajléktalanok Átmeneti Szállója, Hajléktalanokért Közalapítvány, Kiút egyesület, Utcából Lakásba egyesület, Kontúr Egyesület, RÉS szociális és kulturális alapítvány, SZÉRA Szociális és Rehabilitációs alapítvány, Családok Átmeneti Otthona több intézmény, ÖKA Idősek barátai program, Vöröskereszt

The VitaminBoom action is still in act – if you would like to join us as a volunteer, you can apply here, and if you feel like support us, you can do that here. Thank you for helping us!


Betti Balassa

In our project called Seeds4Hope volunteers are raising young plants from seeds. These plants are planted to the gardens of homeless shelters, where homeless people take care of the plants to harvest the fruit of their work: fresh vegetables and fruits.

Betti Balassa, the leader of this project, describes her relation with gardening by a well-known slogan: “Here i am what i really am.”

Betti, from where do you know the project, and what is your task?

I was so outraged by the introduction of the latest homeless law, that I felt I need to go against it in my own way. The garden can be a good tool for many purposes. Therefore I found out to create and run a social garden for homeless people, so they can not be taken from the streets to jail. After a long searching I had to realize that Bike Maffia’s Seeds4Hope project is the only one in Hungary, that gets together homeless people with gardening. So I got connected with the leaders of this project, who appreciated my gardening skills. Few weeks later we were planning together the pallet beds, I held a seed sewing and seedling growing workshop for the volunteers, and we were gardening together at the shelters. This is how I became the gardening coordinator of the project in 2019.

This year, it so happens that I took the leadership of the project. I keep in touch with the shelters and the supporters, especially. We get many offerings such as seedlings, fruit trees. We need to arrange the details of those placement. Meanwhile I try to rethink my original ideas due to the recent situation. My goals for this year is to make publicity for the program, as shelters for homeless people and for mothers are not just here in Budapest. I hope this example will be sticky!

The garden is your passion, you lead this project with huge enthusiasm too. What studies and experiences do you have? Why do you think Seeds4Hope project is important?

I have some childhood memories, basic skills and passion too. My resent knowledge has built up in the six years I spent in our community garden. I learned the most from my own mistakes I made through these years. I participated to a permaculture training to have my gardening skills more complete. 

Seeds4Hope programs main aim is to teach the ones is need to catch the fish, instead of giving them the fish. Spending only a little time can be beneficial for the body and the soul as well. The residents of the shelters are in the very need of this pozitiv effects. Besides tehy learn self-provision, they can grow their own, healthy food. The successes are giving them self-confidence. On the other hand, I can see much prejudice too. Most people have no, or very false idea about the life in a shelter or warmer. This is why I am very glad if there are voluteers from the organisation sector. They can get a clear picture about the life of a shelter home through the common work.

How does the project work? What stages does it have? What plants do you raise and plant?

At the end of the winter we usually have a volunteers meeting with seed exchange, where we dicuss the changes and the actual timeline. This is a brainstorming too, to find out what to change in base of the last years experiences. After this, we raise the seedlings at home. We give a hepling hand by posts and photos sent out to the mailing group. It is always the individual need of the shelter what plants to be sewed and raised. Tomato is always a big star, but in this year every shelter asked for paprikas too. Species from the gourd family (zuccini, cucumber) are popular too. Last year we brought stawberry plantings for each shelters, those will be fruiting this year. Every type of the onion is a big favourite, as the residents like to eat it besides a slice of bread with lard.

How can you manage the program in the middle of the Corona desease? Has the quarantene situation brought any changes this year?

We are in continouos replanning, despite we are still in the “silent”, seedling growing stage. The spring sewing has been cancelled, because the shelters are running on full capacity, some of them are can not be visited at all. We got fruit trees as an offering from a company, but we postponed the planting of those We will plant the young plants, but the circumstances should be consulted in prior. Probably we will collect and deliver those by car, and the planting part will be the task of the residents. Fortunatelly there are enthusiastic social workers in every shelter home, who like to do gardening, and will help the residents to make it happen.

We place bigger emphasise to the autumn season this year. Hopefully, the emergency will end up till than, and we can arrange community cooking based on the tomatoes the residents are growing. 

What are your experiences about the residents relate to gardening?

They are all very shy at first. Then there are always some who come along to ask what are we doing. They ask if they can help us in the work. In the smaller shelter homes they are already know us, so they come up with plans, where to and what they would like to plant. There are places with regular gardening clubs. This year they asked recipies, to get some ideas how to use their products. It is harder to involve the residents in places where they are rotating fastly. But the institutions’ feedback are showing there are always some helping hands to cut the tendrils from tomatoes, even thought they know they will not eat from the fruit of the plants.

With how many volunteers do you work in this project? How is the team?

Viki Takács coordinator helps my work. She works in the social job sector, and has community garden experiences too. That is a great background for this project.

The volunteers are very different, we are still forming. At the beginning of the year we planned to create a nice team, but this is very difficult in the resent situation with only online meetings are possible.  Last year there were ones, who arrrived with children, like me, to built the bads, and to do the planting. This is very important from the view of social sensitivity. There are community garden volunteers among us too. Ones can not raise seedlings, they just here to plant. Others only do the raising part.

The team consist of 20 people now, we have 3 new members. I am very proud that all of our volunteers from last year are helping the project again. They brought a lot of ideas and offerings. But what I really like is their attitude what links us together: everyone can buy plantings on the market, and take it to one of the BMSZKI shelters. But to sew a seed, raise it to a plant, plant it together with the one who the plant will feed – this is the real human act.

Here is an article from 2019 about the Seeds4Hope project.

Photos: István Juhász, Betti Balassa, Júlia Halász


Zsuzsa Mátraházi

Zsuzsi Mátraházi supports our team mostly while sitting in front of her computer and providing support from the background – but we are very happy when we get to meet her in person, as she is one of our most cheerful team member. If you send us a donation, you will be coming in contact with her first.

What is your task within Budapest Bike Maffia? What do you do?

I keep in touch with private donors. Most of the things that we need we receive as donations, but of course we also need financial support. Like for our +1 Sandwich project: due to the large quantity of sandwiches collected by the kids, we are transporting the donations by car which means that we have to pay for petrol, and the driver as well. We have corporate backers, but they are someone else’s task, I keep in contact with our “small” contributors. I am the one who thanks them for their support, sends them their membership cards and gifts (for details on this please see our donor page). I also deal with some less-than-popular tasks; mostly sitting in front of an Excel sheet, writing memos and dealing with correspondence. I think of this as essential tasks that needs to be dealt with in order to facilitate the others’ work.

How and when did you meet the organization? How did you become a Bike Maffia volunteer?

At the beginning, I was only a financial supporter of BBM. Years ago, I was looking for an organization that was big enough so that they are not hopeless, but still small enough so they do not have to spend most of their money on their own operational costs. A friend of mine has suggested Budapest Bike Maffia, and I have started supporting them. Later – after a break-up – I have also went to one of their volunteer events because these are all the type of programs that you can just attend on your own. The people that you meet at these events are amazingly diverse, harmony created between them by everyone working together. Eventually I have also began to become familiar with BBM’s operations. Then, a couple of years ago there was a targeted volunteer recruitment call for a few specific tasks and that’s when I applied. I feel like I’ve found my cause and the way I like to help.

Do you have any memorable volunteer experiences?

I came in contact with true poverty several times. One winter we have visited a village at Heves county to cook at their community house, which is also the place where those in need get to go to wash their clothes and themselves. These sort of experiences really get you to put your own comfortable life into perspective. But it cheers me up to see how helpful people can be. There is someone, for example, who sends us less than a thousand forints a month because that is all they can afford. And then there are always great surprises too, like when last year a couple have asked their wedding party to donate to us as a wedding gift to them, and we have only learned about this from the note on our bank statement.

Why is it worth volunteering? If someone was still not sure about joining, what would you tell them?

Because it feels good to help, and you even get to have fun doing it. The way I see it, there are two ways to help. Either you are doing a new sort of thing that moves you out of your comfort zone, which is fundamentally good for you. Or you’re doing something that you are already really good at – which may not be so much fun for you to do but which helps a lot. As an example: in my work, I deal with GDPR plenty. Do you suppose it is my favourite pasttime to write the BBM Privacy Policy as a volunteer in my free time? Not so much… But it is something that I am able to do much easier than others. Of course, most things that we do are fun even if they are tiring. Like last May, after the Charity Fest have ended, I have felt fiercly tired but also overwhelmingly satisfied. These are the best things in life.

Photo by: István Juhász 


Bernadett Fekete

The activities and projects of Budapest Bike Maffia are realised by the enthusiastic and steadfast efforts of our volunteers. To help you to get to know them better, each month some of them will introduce themselves to you in short interviews and tell a few stories about their volunteering experiences.

Budapest Bike Maffia has launched its photo competition for homeless people for the fourth time this year. A professional jury has selected the 50 photos that were exhibited at Madách Square in September. The top 13 pieces selected by the audience will be made into calendars, postcards and notebooks. The full proceeds from their sale will be given to the creators, the homeless artists.

We have asked the two women who are the very foundation of the MyBudapest Photo Project – Bernadette Fekete and Hajni Merc – about their work and about volunteering.

What are your roles in the project, how and when did you join this program and Budapest Bike Maffia?

Bernadett Fekete: I have met Budapest Bike Maffia in 2015. First I’ve attended one of their Saturday cooking sessions, then I have joined the Vitamin Commando Team a few times, then i just…”got stuck” with them. 🙂 In the spring of 2016, I’ve read an article about the Café Art team in London who were handing out cameras to homeless people and who then used those photos to bring attention to the issue of homelessness. Although the initiative was a bit different from Bike Maffia’s projects so far, it was getting all the team’s support from the beginning. From the very start we have been getting nothing but positive feedback from everyone; volunteers, creators and our partners have all been enthusiastic supporters of the photo competition. This is how I met Hajni as well, she has helped me before with her great ideas about the sale of the calendar. As a Project Coordinator for four years now, I have been working on the MyBudapest Photo Project from its start to its finish, which runs from April to February of next year. The tasks are very diverse and so far each year has presented both new challenges and new opportunities as well.

Hajnalka Merc: I have first met Detty in 2016, who at that time I think was carrying the MyBudapest Photo Project news and calendars all over the city in her backpack, all by herself. I was working at the bookstore of Fuga – Budapest Center of Architecture at that time. I love photography and I liked the idea, so I was happy to take part in the distribution. That year, Fuga was the central location for the MyBudapest calendar. In 2017 we were hosting the exhibition, the public vote and then the announcement of the results. Last year I have offered Detti my help in distribution, in contacting our existing partners and in exploring new opportunities. So that is how we went about it this year.

You are both also working, how do you manage to take care ot the project tasks as well as your work and your other daily activities?

B.F.: I’d be lying if I said it was smooth sailing from the get-go, but by now we have a more or less ready system. The fundamentals of the competition are the same every year (handing out cameras, jury, exhibition, launching the new calendar), so planning becomes easier. It is also a great help that I can always count on Bike Maffia volunteers who are happy to join the project, be it more creative work (ie: graphic design) or some more repetitive, administrative tasks. This fourth season of the project is also special because we have expanded our team. In co-ordination with Zsuzska Molnár, we will be preparing many new projects this year.

H.M.: I work partly on a fixed, partly on a flexible schedule and I can adjust my workdays to find free time to complete the volunteer task. I still have issues with time management from time to time, but I keep trying to improve my organizational methods.

Why is it worth participating in the MyBudapest Project and also: what difficulties do you face during your work?

B.F.: I regard the MyBudapest Photo Project a bit as my “kid”, so for me it is worth it because I can remember where we started and see where we are now. Still, what I might highlight are the personal stories. Each year we get to know new people and their stories. Among the participating artists I have met many special people, several of whom join the competition as returning artists. And perhaps the project’s difficulty lies in a certain degree of “predictability”. As the competition is repeated year after year, it is a challenge to come up with something new to keep both the creators and the public interested.

H.M.: Last year, at the opening on Madách Square, it was great to see the creators happy about the project. They like that they get to show themselves, get to create, get to express themselves through photography. To become visible in the wider community. And i’m happy that i get to be part of their success. As a difficulty, I would also mention sustainability, which has to be developed through partners and customers. We have to explain time and again what this project is about, why you should be involved in the distribution, and why you should buy the calendar. We have to tell people about the creators, the pictures, the stories behind them and the successes of the project. When the program launched in 2016, everyone was thrilled by its novelty. By now however you have to think differently about the whole thing. We need to prove that it was not a one-off, but a viable long-term project which needs to continue.

Why is volunteering important to you, why is it good? What does your family, friends, and acquaintances think about your volunteer work?

B.F.: This might sound weird at first, but although it is about helping others, volunteering is always a bit of a selfish endeavour too. Whether it’s a project with homeless people, garbage collection on the Tisza, a Christmas party at a children’s home, or even a dog walk in an animal shelter, I’m certain to return home with memorable experiences. These experiences are at least as big a gift to me as the help I can can give is to people. Most of my family and friends has a positive view of volunteering, they know that it is as much a part of my daily life as cycling is. I must admit that I tend to overdo it a bit and take on tasks beyond my capacity, but the people around me not only support my endeavours but also help me find the balance.

H.M.: By volunteering, I feel like I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone. It is somewhere between a profession and a hobby for me. Trying to selflessly help, to do something for other people – it means a lot to me. Some friends of mine have been volunteering for a long time and I have always felt a lot of respect for them when they told me what they were doing. Maybe this was also something that motivated me: they were my role models. It would be great if I could also share my volunteering experiences in a way that would inspire others to start volunteer work as well. 🙂

For the MyBudapest Photo Project, we invite homeless people to take pictures of Budapest the way they see it. We organize exhibitions of the pictures, print calendars, notebooks and postcards. All profits from the sales of these items go to the homeless artists. Our initiative aims to empower homeless people to showcase their talents and their everyday lives, to raise awareness for the issue of homelessness, to reduce stereotypes and to narrow the social divide.

Photo by: István Juhász


Dávid Orosz

All sorts of people participate in our Vitamin Commando project, since anyone is able to join at any time without prior notice, even if only for a single occasion. There is however a so-called ‘core team’, people who participate in nearly every sandwich prep and delivery. We have been talking to two such people: Gergő Szőts and Dávid Orosz about this project and how it became an integral part of their week.

How did you first hear about the project and why did you became regular members?

Gergő Szőts: I have first heard about BBM in January 2017. I have seen their notice on some the internet portal, they have announced a “Crisis!” project due to the extremely cold weather that winter, and were looking for enthusiastic volunteers who would be able to help the homeless one way or another. At that time, I was looking for some kind of volunteer work anyway, so when i have seen that notice i have decided to visit their then base to see how i could help. They were very intense days, a lot of people came to answer their call, and it had felt good to do something useful. After the “Crisis” was over, there was no question that I wanted to attend regularly. Many people have started out at the same time as me and a great team has formed. The hard core members welcomed the new people with open arms, even organised several ‘get-to-know each other and the organization’ parties. This is the main reason of why I became a regular member. I have got to know a great many honest, kind and awesome people here. I have listened to their stories, have let them shape my worldview, and I feel like I became a better person thanks to them. Not to mention feeling like I was doing something good at the same time!

Dávid Orosz: I have started participating in Vitamin Commando because of the 50-hour mandatory School Community Service. I have chosen it because my classmates were here, also because of their 50 hours. They have told me that in addition to helping those in need, you get to complete your hours in a really great atmosphere, so I have thought I’d give it a try. The 50 hours is longe since over but i have stayed. For more than two years now i participate in every sandwich making because these two nights have became part of my week.

What keeps you here?

G.Sz.: Other than the great company, there are two things I can say for sure that have made me a return sandwich maker. The first one is the people that this is all about: the homeless. For me, it is a great feeling to have some time to talk to them while making the deliveries –  to listen to them, to realize that they really are just like us in every way – even if they live on the margins of our society. We help each other a lot – even if they do not do it knowingly – I give them sandwiches, fruit, a few kind words and an audience. For their part: they teach me with their stories that there is no point taking ourselves and every little problem with the world too seriously. The second thing are the rookies. It is great to see people being interested in others, wanting to help, wishing to do something. They are coming because they feel that life should be about more than just surviving. This gives me the desire to come back time and again, because it just energizes me!

D.O.: What keeps me coming back is that i get to meet my friends there. It is kind of a relaxing activity, but at the same time it is charity. I think it is great that i get to do both ot these things at the same time.

How does it feel to be part of the Vitamin Commando?

G.Sz.: Sometimes when I leave sandwiches next to a sleeping homeless person, I feel like Santa Claus. ☺ I imagine them waking up in the morning; seeing some fruit, a sandwich, and maybe even some chocolate next to their head, and wondering where they have got it. Of course, most of the time they know, they know us very well! Jokes aside: it feels great to be a vitamin commando member, our community is awesome!

D.O.: It is great to be a Vitamin Commando member. We are in good company and the mood is always great, be it while making sandwiches or deliveries.

Photo by: István Juhász