Interview with Dr. Mónika Garai-Fodor and students of Obuda University (Hungary)

This week we share the interview with Mónika Garai-Fodor, dean of Óbuda University, professional head of BEESE Pro Bono. She interviewed students participating in BEESE Pro Bono pilot programs:


Gréta Bartha, full-time student of Óbuda University, project manager of the short-term pilots in 2019 and the mid-term pilots in 2020

Afrodité Wild, full-time student at the Óbuda University, project manager of the long term pilot in 2019

Gréta Bartha and Afrodité Wild

MGF: What motivated you to participate?

G.B.: I came from a family where it has always been important to help people. My ancestors were health care workers who worked steadily, in all circumstances, to save lives. In addition, I went to church school, where the development of sensitization and empathy was a daily educational goal, with the principle that ​​helping is a good and basic activity. When I had the opportunity to pay homage to this at university as well, all in a way that I could use my knowledge, help with it, and learn in the meantime, it was no question for me to apply.

A.W.: Initially, it motivated me that I got free hand within the program. We contacted one of the staff members of the Volunteer Center Foundation (ÖKA), Katalin Somlai, who supported us throughout, sometimes correcting or rethinking our ideas and helping us with our work. After seeing more clearly what we wanted to achieve, what the goal of the program was, we came up with more and more ideas, negotiated with Kata, received formal background support from our Accenture mentor. We felt better and better as we to got new and new information and got new things done. 

MGF: What were your best experiences with pro bono?

G.B.: Since we were able to participate in two pilot programs, I would like to highlight a momentum from both, and an important common thing that I think all participants will learn during the project: prejudices need to be put aside. Although everyone has a helpful attitude toward the process, we have prejudices, we think in stereotypes when we hear certain words. What we’ve learned the most is how all of this is refuted by the organizations involved in the program. Perhaps this is the best, most defining experiences of the pro bono. In 2019, even before the current epidemic, we met and worked with the Equal Chanses Foundation. My best experience from this period – and I will bring it up in years to come and recommend it to anyone involved in similar work – is a field trip. One day we visited the Foundation in Csömör, by minibus, like on a class trip, and there we saw how a day passed by. I don’t think that there’s more moving and realistic experience than tracking their life on a weekday. Every minute spent there was a lesson itself. During spring of 2020, at the beginning of the pandemic and the quarantine, I think my best experience was that we still managed to do it, we managed to accomplish the task. Day by day we had to look at things from a different point of view, from a different perspective, we had to find a solution, we had to work together, while we only had the online platform provided by the University. Prioritization changed day by day, week by week, we had ad hoc tasks, we had to show agility to adapt to changing problems. I think being able to do that, learning to handle the situation, is the best experience. After all, we have gone beyond our own borders.

A.W.: After working on the project for a long time, a task arose as to try to reach elderly people in nursing homes through a video. Our goal was not just to put a questionnaire in front of them, but to get them to know us and our goals. So we came up with the idea to make an introductory video to show them what we were doing. For me, it was the fondest memory of all, when we shot the video on a nice summer afternoon in the school yard. Beside this, I really enjoyed the meetings with Kata when we came up with new ideas. It was especially good that Kata supported our ideas every time and sometimes she thought them further so we were able to move forward with the project. 

MGF: What was the main benefit of your participation?

G.B.: I think it is the Organization’s job to tell, what they found useful from our work. Because we think everything was useful. That’s why we worked. 🙂 I think if I had to formulate the main benefit of participation, it would be that we have seen the practical application of our knowledge. After all, the most important thing for every university student is to acquire competitive, market-based, usable knowledge at the university, and to see what he or she is capable of with the acquired knowledge in the uppercase LIFE. This can also be sold as an internship, requiring real knowledge focus. Everything we learned is usable in real life, an applicable knowledge in our hands.

A.W .: In my opinion, the main benefit was that we learned how much work an NGO, in this case ÖKA, has in this Friends of the Elderly Program. Furthermore, I believe that our suggestions were useful, as we were often able to contribute to a specific part of the project with our youthful insights or our IT background knowledge.

MGF: What was the main conclusion of your participation, what did you learn from it?

G.B.: As I mentioned before, we are all thinking in stereotypes, and luckily, they taught us how to go beyond these. Furthermore, we have also learned that we are able to cross the “lines” we imagine as our border. What we learned from it, however, is how to work together as a team. After all, this is not a university test that you can write, submit, and get a mark for it. You took responsibility here. For other members of your team, and for the people involved in the lives of the foundations. You vowed to do good. At first, it’s very hard to work together with such responsibilities on your shoulders, as you were just university buddies last week. You have to organize the tasks into a hierarchy and learn to accept that one person has to decide in the end. And then it will be as he said. It was a very difficult and very constructive task.

A.W.: The most important thing we have learned is that money is not absolutely necessary for everything. Sometimes it is enough if a few people with different views and mindsets come together to share ideas and take the time to work out everything properly. For us, perhaps the biggest challenge was when we had to visit the municipalities and nursing homes, and we had to collect the services of the institutions. It was hard work, but the helpful people (municipal clerks, clerks of social institutions) often contributed to getting certain things in hand.

MGF: What would you say to motivate the next group to participate?

A.W.: I think it’s worth helping such organizations, or participating in programs like this, because you get to know more and more programs you’ve never heard of before. Also as I’ve mentioned several times before (perhaps because money is not at the center) participants are able to let go of their imagination on how they could help organizations who are thankful for young people’s form-breaking ideas. For me, it was the best feeling that I was able to add some value to the project as well.

G.B.: It takes inner motivation to embark on this path. But if the idea is already in you, then the words of Tamás Csitáry-Hock can really show what the University gives with this opportunity:

“You are waiting in vain. That it will get better. That it will be different. That one day things will change. That someone is knocking on your door with a huge opportunity. That one day your future will come to you. Because your future is not far away. Not kilometers, not months, not years away. It does not come. It’s here. In you.” You can get to know yourself, your opportunities, and your hidden abilities, your future goals from a new side that you could never discover elsewhere, at another time, in another program. If you are selected for the program, seize your opportunity. Live with it because you will never regret it!