|The origin of this interview was to be given one single characteristics, then it would be synchronicity in the sense of „meaningful coincidences“. During my studies in the US, I have developed the interest and the passion for the role of civil society. I also vividly remember the cold January in 1996 when I was standing long hours to pay tribute to Olga Havel and to sign the condolence book to commemorate Olga as my woman role model. The final piece of puzzle was completed in December 2014 when I had the privilege to facilitate the donation for Olga Havel Foundation from the Rotary Club in Montreal as the Secretary of Rotary Club Prague International. It was incredibly moving moment. The premises of Olga Havel Foundation – the Committee of Good Will – evoke Olga´s kindness, wisdom and overall the true humanistic spirit. The Olga Havel´s Foundation – The Committee of Goodwill was perhaps the first foundation to be established after the Velvet Revolution. In 2015, the Committee of Goodwill Celebrates 25 years of existence. I realized that all the achievements would not be reached without Olga ´s founding spirit truly embedded in the premises but also without the everyday involvement of Mrs. Milena Černá, who has been a director of the Foundation since 1993.
Mrs. Milena Černá studied a medicine and due to her close relations with dissidents she was often called the physician for Charter 77. She was forced to leave the Dermato-Venerology Clinics in 1986 and as a regular district doctor she became familiar with the reality in children´s foster homes, elderly and social care institutions.
After 1989, she naturally began to active in the sphere of social affairs. Besides being involved in Olga Havel´s foundation, is the founder of European Anti Poverty Network in the Czech Republic – a network of associations against poverty and social exclusion.
How do you perceive today´s world?
The world is full of anxiety. I think that since there was not an outbrake of a large scale war for a long time, people must somehow express their ambition for dominance. So they provoke, demonstrate, destroy the planet or worse attack, occupy territory, expel each other and kill one another. I am an advocate of cosmopolitism, but it seems that the mankind is still not mature enough.
How do you percieve the position of the Czech Republic in today´s world?
After 1989, our country had a great chance to restore democracy, decency and order.
Instead striving for ideals, people chose materialistic approach. They misuse freedom. Minister of Finance goes too far to claim that he wants to manage this country as a company. Does not it sound like a perverse idea? Does it work like that somewhere else in the world? From the outside perspective, it looks like “the little Czech pond” presents itself as superior to other nations and despises the European Community.
The Committe of Good Will – The Olga Havel Foundation is celebrating 25 years anniversary this year. In retrospective what were the most important milestones and achievements?
During 25 years of our existence we have had numerous successes: We contributed to the first Leksell gamma knife, we managed to send a large number of sick children to convalesce stays, we gained an important partner for the education of children with handicaps, we helped during the floods, we managed to influence some legislative measures. I think we have achieved a lot with regards to the change of the attitude of mainstream society and its view on people with disabilities. This was also thanks to our top event - the annual Olga Havel Award for personalities, who help others despite their own heavy handicap. However, any specific assistance to a child or an adult in difficult life situation, make us happy again and again. And these numerous occasions are almost impossible to count.
Now, if you look ahead what are your plans for future?
Our Foundation has created a surrounding circle of helping people, donors, co-operators, volunteers who identify with the principles that our Foundation advocates. We would like to expand this circuit to the universities´ environment and we would like to establish cooperation with foreign foundations operating in the Czech Republic. I believe that both foundations and universities contribute to the positive development of society. As far as our target group for receiving assistance is concerned, we concentrate on elderly people, dying people, people experiencing poverty and living at the risk of social exclusion, children and adults with disabilities and we are open to assist refugees.
According to the latest research done by STEM and Via Foundation, 90% of polled Czechs themselves proclaimed being philanthropists helping others. You as an expert in the area, do you confirm such positive trend in Czech society in case of helping others?
Certainly, I can confirm that in the Czech Republic, people are willing to donate money if you learn about a disaster from the media. Such as the situation during floods. People tend to contribute having a purpose. Many contribute to support children patients with cancer and blind children. The question is how the donations from collections will be spent. The Foundation is a guarantee that the money will be distributed fairly, meeting a long-term perspective and goals.
Activities of the Foundation correspond to the broad notion of diversity. You help diverse groups of people, often people on the margin, the groups that are easy to neglect by the outside society. How did you manage to carry on Olga Havel´s legacy for a long time?
This is simple. I knew Mrs. Olga since the sixties and our views were very close. I consider management of the Foundation my life mission.
You had extremely busy professional life of a medical doctor and then director of the Committee of Good Will – Olga Havel Foundation, at the same time you are a mother of two sons. I cannot help to ask: How did you manage? And what is your advice to women who try to balance meaningful career and family? And how have conditions for women in the Czech society improved?
As a physician, I have the role of mother pretty well settled. My parents and friends helped me. I think that my sons were well prepared to life. I always say that the scout movement also helped me to raise my children since they both were involved. After 1989, I naturally had to give up on life with my grandchildren; I declined the pleasure from grandmother´s role.
My perception is that a woman should not be content with her role merely in the upbringing of children. She should have an occupation, where she can do something meaningful for the society.
Women today have higher self-esteem and I can see that they tend to study at universities at much higher rate than before. I'm a big supporter of these changes.
Final words for Prague Leaders Magazine readers?
Believe that if you do something good for others, it will eventually return to you.
By Linda Štucbartová
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