The Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity

26 Jan 2021
No, Charlie Brown, this isn’t the name of your next film; the Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity (known in PL as 'WOŚP - Wielka Orkiestra Świątecznej Pomocy’) is one of Poland’s biggest non-profit charity organisations which has raised millions of złoty buying medical equipment for the dilapidated Polish health system since it began in 1993.

Founded by a man who can best be described as a force of nature, Jerzy Owsiak, WOŚP is essentially a huge one day telethon aimed at raising awareness and lots of money for children’s health care. Initially organised to provide “health care for children by supplying medical equipment to public hospitals,” WOŚP changes its beneficiary cause each year and has since raised money for child victims of motor accidents and children with serious vision problems. In its first year, WOŚP raised 1.5 million USD but since these early days it has become the biggest event of its kind in Poland with over 138 million USD raised to date.
The larger than life Jerzy Owsiak. Photo: WOŚP

Once a year the Great Orchestra’s final event is organised by volunteers in virtually every town in Poland, with hundreds of bands playing for free at various festival sites in almost every town in PL. The event traditionally takes place on the second Sunday of the year, although due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the 2021 event is scheduled for Sunday 31 January. You’ll see volunteers everywhere you go and wherever you are expect a huge laser light show at 20:00 which is called ‘Light to the Sky’. A truly virtuous and remarkably successful project, those who have enough heart to contribute will receive one as well: the iconic red sticker which you will see on everyone in town this day. And you can have a heart too, Scrooge. Go on. ‘It’s for the kids.’

2019's event was a great success in many ways, going well beyond its 1 billion złoty target, however, it was overshadowed by the murder of the President of Gdańsk Paweł Adamowicz, who was on stage in Gdańsk during the city's WOŚP celebrations, and fatally stabbed by an attacker.


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