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No matter if their causes are local or on a different hemisphere, these two women stationed in Bratislava dedicate themselves to supporting communities in need. Beata Bogárová and Zuzana Majerčáková have both been able to use their resources and talents to shape the lives of others in Bratislava and Madagascar.
Even in her challenging job as an assistant for four international management teams for Henkel’s Laundry & Home Care business unit, Beata Bogárová finds joy in working as a volunteer – cooking for some of the homeless and impoverished living in Bratislava.
On weekends during the winter, Beata and her mother voluntarily prepare meals with "Kresťania v meste" (Christians in the city) – an organization founded by the city’s Christian congregations in 2006 that provides people with hot meals and warm clothes. Three times a week in winter and twice a week in summer, the network regularly sets up a food counter under one of Bratislava's large Danube bridges. On Thursdays, helpers also distribute warm clothing and doctors offer free basic medical care.
Within the organization, there are a total of 150 volunteers, of which Beata coordinates 25 active members from her church community, saying that “Each of us contributes in his or her own way – some take care of the shopping, others cook or help with the distribution of food. We also have supporters who give small donations.”
As one of the cooks, preparations to make food for 80-100 people start days in advance. After a full day of work, Beata still finds the energy to grocery shop and leaves the store with bags bulging from her purchase of fresh vegetables, potatoes and meat for 30 litres of soup. "That's a lot of food, and I pay attention to good quality when I shop," she confirms. For her, the nutritional value and variety of the food she makes takes a high priority. This is why she and her mother prepare a wide and ever-changing range of soups, stews and goulash pots.
For several hours on their cooking Saturdays, mother and daughter are often busy cleaning, peeling, washing, cutting, stirring and seasoning that day’s meal. To prepare and cook these meals needs time and energy, but Beata appreciates it all the same. “Sometimes I'm tired and don't feel like cooking,” she explains, “but as soon as I've started, I can even relax while working with my hands.”
Her history with volunteering started after she completed her studies, as a humanitarian aid worker in Kosovo. After returning to Bratislava, she discovered the opportunity to volunteer with the organization "Kresťania v meste" and has loved it ever since. Her motivation lies behind a philanthropic philosophy: "I am healthy, I have a home, comfort, love and an interesting job. The people I help are not as fortunate. I find it important to use my time and my potential meaningfully, not only for me, but also for my fellow human beings.
I admire my mom’s enthusiasm, energy and determination. Somehow, she manages to be in the right time and place whenever we need her.
“Do not despise the day of small beginnings.” It means not to be afraid of challenges when starting something new, to carry on and to persevere when things don’t develop as planned.
I admire women who are not afraid to be emotional, vulnerable, creative, caring, who are talkative, who eat chocolate when they are stressed. I think we do not need to compete with men. We are equally created but nevertheless everyone is special.
At Henkel, Zuzana Majerčáková manages the Forecast Analytics Team in the Shared Service Center in Bratislava. However, in her free time, she manages a totally different type of project.
Unlike Beata, Zuzana needed an extra push to get involved in volunteer efforts. “For a long time,” Zuzana explains, “I had wished to volunteer, but until 2018 I had only donated money from time to time and encouraged my children to give toys they no longer needed to one of the orphanages in our area." But once she did, she fully committed her time and resources to be a volunteer.
After a particularly stressful period in her life, Zuzana was looking for a change and a new direction, which she found in an unexpected source. “My new landlady, Anezka Boriova, told me that she had recently built a school in Madagascar and that there was still a lot of work to do,” she recalls. This short interaction inspired Zuzana to get involved immediately in all aspects of the project located in the rural outskirts of Antoby Est. Her first order of business: donating bicycles to schoolchildren, their families and their teachers.
"In the rural areas of Madagascar, people have to walk long distances. That's why we asked the citizens of Bratislava to donate used bicycles, which we then cleaned and checked," she reports. “The response was fantastic: We had to stop the action at bike number 122, because more wouldn’t fit into the transport container." Then, in November 2018, Zuzana and Anezka travelled to Madagascar and delivered the bikes, which the children and their families received with joy and enthusiasm.
Another big component of the project is making clean water accessible at the school. Once springs were uncovered, helpers built a water reservoir and laid pipes so that the water can then flow to the school’s taps, showers and toilets. Eventually, Zuzana plans to extend the pipeline to neighboring villages, where most of the schoolchildren live.
Her biggest project in Madagascar still lays before her, when Zuzana and Anezka will once more travel to Antoby Est, this time to support the construction of four houses close to the school. These will provide housing for eight teachers, their families and volunteers who will also help at the school. Every month for the last year, Zuzana put aside some of her salary to fund the construction of the first house – all by herself. “I am proud that I can help and support people who were less fortunate in life than me,” Zuzana says.
Even with the time and energy she donated to this project in Madagascar, the list of to-dos keeps growing. The school needs electricity; the hospital needs medical equipment. Despite the stress of having a full-time job and making huge contributions to a project halfway across the globe, Zuzana is excited about the new possibilities and ways she can support this village. “I focus on the important issues, I’ve found a way to balance my professional and private activities. I also try to assist people in everyday life. After years of struggling myself, I don’t look away when friends or colleagues are unhappy or worried. Everyone needs someone to trust and talk to.”
Think positive – two simple but powerful words. Positive thinking to me means approaching unpleasant situations in a more positive way and being better able to handle everyday stress in a more constructive way.
Stop making differences between races, cultures and religions. I would like to see less prejudice and more tolerance. Diversity, not only in the work environment, promotes acceptance, respect and tolerance.
If I had one superpower it would be the ability to make every human being live in abundance. Everyone on this planet deserves a happy, healthy and wealthy life.