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Poland: Charity Initiative Criticised by a Catholic Radio Station

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Today is the day when Poland unites in an enormous charity event called The Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity [referred to as WOŚP], organized for the 18th time by Jurek Owsiak to help children with cancer. The Orchestra organises a series of events, on-line auctions and other fund-raising activities all around the country, but also outside of Poland (here is the list of its official centres). All this is to enable the management of medical programs, donation of medical equipment, and general support of children who suffer from cancer.

The beginning of 2010 was marked by preparations to the next great charity weekend, which is held yearly. However, this time there was also strong criticism of its transparency by listeners of Radio Maryja, a Catholic radio station led by Father Rydzyk. Accusations of money expenditure and other aspects of the fund-raising event were posted on the blog [PL] of Radio Maryja fans recently.

The first quoted listener was Zofia from Krzeszowice [PL]:

And once again in January they will start Owsiak's Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity (…) And when it comes to Owsiak he never really clarified what he does with the rest of the money, apart from buying a few bits of equipment. And what about the rest of the money? – Well, he should admit what he does with it, because it's corruption, just like now where we have this criminal committee. He could do with one too. Someone should finally do something about it, because it's unacceptable, this whole playing up. They ask kids to get out of schools, those kids freeze, and secondly – it's a misuse of those kids. So this man could re-think it and simply stop.

Another listener, Daniel from Sochaczew, phoned the radio station, saying [PL]:

We do know what is going on out there. For example, Sochaczew received a new ambulance. So what? Quite recently a woman died, she called an ambulance, which did not arrive on time.

The blog post quotes other examples of negative criticism, as well as a few positive comments, adding that those occurred rarely. It also generated a series of comments on the blog itself.

Arab reacts saying [PL]:

Exactly…they pick on Owsiak and Farther Rydzyk himself does not explain how the yearly donation money is spent…on his cars and travels…if Owsiak would buy himself an Audi a6, everyone would shout for the Orchersta's money…but Rydzyk can afford it, just as he did not explain where the money from dockyard collections go

There are also voices, like Anita, supporting [PL] the tonality of this post:

You do not have to be smart to know that EVIL WAS ALWAYS LOUD and what Mr Owsiak does and how loud and too colourful and too evil manipulating people's and teenagers’ innocence is..!!!

Two mainstream media articles published by Gazeta.pl generated approximately 800 comments so far, the majority of which harshly criticises Radio Maryja's post.

Oghana7‘s statement supports the criticism of Radio Maryja, writing [PL]:

Are episcopacy and bishops not ashamed to have a radio of this type and that type of a brother? Congratulations to the sect, which poisons hearts and brains of naive Poles.

pan_i_wladca_mx reacts [PL] to accusations that the Orchestra is not delivering enough of medical equipement:

Just one question, the adjustment of hospitals to EU standards seems to be the government's duty, no? and not the Orchestra's? Did Owsiak ever promise to do so? Let's not confuse tasks of the Orchestra with those of our state! The fact that the Orchestra would buy a little bit of equipment does not mean it will finance the national health system.

I generally do not know if it's a scam or not, but I go for the argument that other countries follow him, and when my friend's son was in a hospital unit for newborn pathologies in Lublin basically half of the equipment was marked with the Orchestra's heart-shaped stickers.

Blogger Grzegorz Piechuła responds [PL] to the criticism towards the Orchestra's high expenditure on marketing:

WOŚP collects a huge amount exactly due to advertisements. It's a commercial undertaking. Hence the lights and the light to the skies. But as far as I know, this is the best way to use modern marketing, branding and consumer culture. Not because of the generated cash, but the good cause. This is why with all my heart I do encourage everyone to drop at least a few coins into the WOŚP boxes.

You can follow live updates and the current amount of donations on the Polish website of the Orchestra [PL]. They are also present on Facebook, where you can donate money via a dedicated application. To learn more about their activities, check out the About section here.

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