Coalition Board Approves Projects for Red Sludge Disaster Relief

The Executive Committee of the Board of Directors of the Hungarian American Coalition has approved five grants to assist in the rebuilding efforts in the vicinity of Devecser, in northwest Hungary.    Exactly one year ago today, the wall of a reservoir at an alumina plant near Devecser collapsed, unleashing a flood of toxic red sludge that killed several and injured hundreds.  Several towns were virtually destroyed.  In response, and in coordination with requests from the Government of Hungary, the Hungarian American Coalition established its Red Sludge Disaster Relief Fund.  

Gárdonyi Géza Elementary School in Devecser

To support its decisions on how to distribute the relief funds, the Coalition commissioned a sociological study of the region, and also undertook several site visits to Devecser, meeting with Mayor Tamás Toldi and the teachers and principal of the local elementary school. Based on the needs stated by the local officials, and taking the Hungarian Government’s own funding projects into account, the Coalition proposed and has approved the following funding targets:  

  • Purchase new musical instruments for the Devecser music school (all instruments were destroyed by the red sludge): $10,000
  • Co-finance the rehabilitation of the school roof: $10,000
  • Fund for two years the fees of a school psychologist to attend the schoolchildren, many of whom were traumatized by the disaster and continue to need long-term professional help and therapy: $6,000 
  • Employ a full-time Roma social worker to help the school teachers with mentoring and providing support services (Currently there are no Roma teachers in a school where 65% of the students come from Devecser’s Roma community): $10,000
  • Fund the cost of a full-time internship program for 24 months, placing bilingual Hungarian-American volunteers to help the mayor’s office in networking with potential investors, assist with development programs, and provide administrative support: $49,920.  This project will be carried out jointly by the Coalition, with the support of the American Chamber of Commerce in Hungary, the Rotary Club Hungary and the Hungarian Red Cross and other not-for profit organizations.

The Coalition has signed grant agreements to provide funding for the projects listed above.  The five grants total approximately $86,000, and are funded from the contributions of individual donors and foundations in the U.S.  We greatly appreciate the generous support of all donors.    

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