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May 19, 2022



Romani man from the Czech Republic living in England launches Facebook challenge to aid homeless people, other Roma in Europe respond

3.11.2019 9:24
Patrik Lakatoš (left) and Daja (right), Romani community members who have been giving homeless people food and challenging others to do so on social media (2019).
Patrik Lakatoš (left) and Daja (right), Romani community members who have been giving homeless people food and challenging others to do so on social media (2019).

Different kinds of challenges are disseminated on social media to motivate people to undertake some sort of action, to join competitions, to buy things, or to share the content being posted. Such challenges can also be used to educate people and to help others.

Patrik Lakatoš, a Czech citizen of Romani origin who lives in Kent, England and makes his living as a barber, decided to take advantage of the power of the Facebook social network for an idea of his own. He began to disseminate a challenge among his friends to draw attention to the lives of homeless people and to aid them.

"Every time I used to see a homeless person, I would give them money. Once I was walking past a homeless person and another man asked me why I was giving him money if it was likely he would just spend it on alcohol. When I got home, I thought about how to do this differently," Lakatoš told Hate Free Culture (HFC), a project of the Czech Government.

Lakatoš then challenged his friends through Facebook to buy food and distribute it to people living on the street. He has already motivated many other people in several European countries to follow his example.

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The principle of Patrik's idea is simple. Through his Facebook page, which is followed by almost 15 000 people, he challenged three of his friends to buy food and distribute it among the homeless.

Each of them were then meant to choose another three friends to challenge and to disseminate the idea further. "It doesn't matter what kind of food you buy, because some people don't have a lot of money to buy costly food. They should just buy something that is ready to eat. Mainly they should be giving these people aid, bringing a little joy into their lives, demonstrating to them that we are thinking about them," Patrik said, who managed to assist 25 street people in just one day by using the social media platform.

The response to his first post was not long in coming, either. "The post with the challenge has been seen more than 100 000 times. The people whom I tagged immediately joined in and it is continuing to spread," Patrik rejoiced.

Food for the poor

The first person Patrik tagged was Ladislav Žiga, a native of Prague's Žižkov neighborhood who now lives in Gloucestor, England, where he works as a mentor in the schools and as a boxing trainer. "This is not some sort of absurd challenge, this is a super idea to aid people who are just being ignored by countless others," he explained to HFC when asked why he had decided to get involved.

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"This is the least we can do for these people. For the time being, 10 people have joined us and others are working on making videos about their own giving, so the dissemination is succeeding. A good idea certainly will spread - maybe more slowly than a negative one, but we are patient," Žiga said.

Another person tagged on Facebook who identified with this idea was Daja, who distributed baguette sandwiches, cookies and drinks to homeless people along with her friend Vojta. "We live in an accelerated time. I had frequently observed homeless people from a distance, and I wanted to spend time with them. I listened to a couple of their stories and they captured my heart. I said to myself that we could aid them in this way at least," she told HFC.

Thanks to the video Daja published on Facebook about the food distribution, other people immediately joined the challenge. "My friends responded, each in their own way. For example, my friend Jana didn't distribute food, but in Eisenach, in Germany, she gave a poor couple with a little boy clothing for the child," she described.

From England to Europe

The challenge has spread from Great Britain to other friends living in the Czech Republic and elsewhere in Europe. Jaroslav Horváth of Ostrava accepted the challenge and distributed crepes and pizza to homeless people living in adversity.

"I know many people are doing this when no cameras are capturing it, but it is also correct to inspire and motivate others, and that's why we have filmed and published this," Horváth told HFC. In addition to the challenge, he is doing his best to do more when the cameras are not on, for example, paying for homeless people to stay in an asylum facility that costs CZK 45 [EUR 1.75] per day.

Romani people giving aid

For the time being, mostly Romani people have joined the challenge. "I encounter positive reactions about the fact that Romani people are doing this. Some people do their best to attribute a lot of negatives to the Romani community, but we are ordinary people like everybody else all the same. I always say that on the day we leave this world we will certainly all be the same. For that reason, I don't draw distinctions among people," Žiga said.

"Is the Romani community accustomed to giving aid? Certainly, yes, just like anybody else. Some people provide their assistance, some don't. However, we hope that our generation and future generations will increasingly do this more, and we will attempt it in the future as well. Maybe it's something new for people, something they are not familiar with, something they don't identify with yet. For that reason we are doing our best to inspire others," Žiga said. 

First published in Czech on the Hate Free Culture news server.

Marie Škardová, Hate Free Culture, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
Views: 3590x

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