A burning success

  • 2009-01-28
  • By Monika Hanley

BETTER TO GIVE: The BCCL found that businessmen are still willing to give to charity despite the crisis.

RIGA - As the rest of the business world is pulling their purse strings ever tighter, there are some who are continuing the tradition of giving back. The British Chamber of Commerce in Latvia is for the 12th year turning their annual Burns Night celebration into a well attended charity event.
The night, commemorating Scottish poet Robert Burns, is a tradition all over the world, a chance to remember and to celebrate Scottish traditions.

Former president Vaira Vike-Freiberga, the patroness of the event, who has spoken at other British Chamber of Commerce events, gained interest because of the culture and folkloric aspects of the event.
But in addition to whisky, haggis, bagpipes and traditional readings, the night has a charitable side, with a silent auction, raffle and other fund raising activities.
Ieva Gruzina, executive director of the Chamber told The Baltic Times that she is also optimistic in their goals for the evening.

"We sold out all the tickets in about two weeks. Last year we raised about 8,000 lats (11,383 euros) and this year we hope to raise 10,000," she said, adding that more people are prepared to give this year.
Gruzina was also thankful for people's generous sides showing through in the time of crisis.

"We have been very fortunate that people are still willing to give. This is a struggle for other charities," she said.
Anita Kaleja, chairman of the Chamber, said "Many times charities don't have a way to approach corporate sponsors for donations, but we want to show people that it's easy to get involved and to bring opportunities to light."
Every two years the organization changes the charities they sponsor, chosen mostly based on member recommendations.    

The two sponsored charities this year are "Dzivesprieks" (Life happiness) and Ceribu Sparni" (Wings of Hope). Dzivesprieks has since 1994 worked with at risk teens who are often orphaned or from troubled backgrounds. The organization works with the teens for two years to help them adjust to society, learn a trade and reintegrate as a functioning contributing citizen.
Ceribu Sparni has since 2003 worked with disabled children and social rehabilitation and is hoping to send eight children to Poland in 2009 to perform with the money gained from the event. 
The spirit of charity is contagious and, as Kaleja said, "it's addictive. Seeing the looks on the children's faces when you do the simplest thing is so rewarding."

The BCCL encourages people to get involved and to contact them if they wish to contribute. The 250th Burns Night is also being celebrated in Estonia and Lithuania.

For more information on how to donate time, money or experience, contact [email protected]