On 11 October researchers from the Czech Institute of Informatics, Robotics, and Cybernetics of the Czech Technical University in Prague (CTU) received in person their European Citizen’s Prize, which they won in 2020 for their CIIRC RP95-3D protective half-mask. The prize was conferred in CTU’s ceremonial hall. The 2021 prize went to the Masaryk University Volunteer Centre for the MUNI HELPS project. These two teams received their medals from Dita Charanzová, vice president of the European Parliament and chancellor of the European Citizen’s Prize, after a year-long pause in awards ceremonies due to the pandemic.
Juries comprising members of the European Parliament and prominent figures in Czech civic society voted on who would win the prize in the spring of both last year and this year. Each year, the European Parliament awards the prize for projects that touch upon social issues in each of the EU’s Member States.
“Both recognized projects share two important things in common: innovation and solidarity. Our universities, research institutes, and students have demonstrated that they are among the best in the world. Both projects contributed significantly to the battle against COVID-19. We have much to be proud of,” says Dita Charanzová, vice president of the European Parliament and chancellor of the European Citizen’s Prize, whose work in the parliament focuses on consumer protection, the digital economy, and international trade.
The Masaryk University Volunteer Centre won the prize for its ability to effectively direct volunteers to organizations and individuals in need of help during the coronavirus crisis. The idea behind the centre was brought to life and automated thanks to a database system used by volunteer coordinators. The Volunteer Centre’s activities are not only limited to helping with the fight against COVID-19. MUNI HELPS also provides volunteers for other types of activities. For example, the centre played a key role in co-organizing clean-up crews after a tornado struck several villages in South Moravia in June. The centre is developing other programmes, such as a student legal advisory centre and a help incubator.
“I am delighted that our volunteer centre was recognized with this European prize. It is proof that Masaryk University has proven itself to be a socially responsible institution, which during a short span of time was able to arrange or provide assistance to thousands of citizens and hundreds of institutions, including hospitals, children’s homes, charities, nursing homes, crisis hotlines, and local government offices. This prize belongs to all our volunteers, from both within and without MU, who during this unprecedented social crisis selflessly helped those in need,” said Martin Bareš, the rector of Masaryk University.
In its year-and-a-half of existence, the volunteer centre has taken care of 3,220 requests for help from individuals and institutions. “Currently, more than 5,000 volunteers are registered in the application who are able to offer their time or expertise to help those in need,” says Daniela Niebauerová, a coordinator at the Masaryk University Volunteer Centre, adding, “We are very happy about the prize, and we welcome the possibility to meet in person with our colleagues from CTU, with whom we work together on many levels.”
Representatives from all recognized teams from across the European Union will meet at a November ceremony in Brussels.
Past Czech laureates of this prize include the non-profit organization Post Bellum, Caritas Czech Republic, the humanitarian organization ADRA CZ, and People in Need.
The European Citizen’s Prize has been awarded every year since 2008 by the European Parliament to individuals, groups, associations, and organizations. The award recognizes outstanding achievements in promoting better mutual understanding and closer integration between EU citizens and Member States, in supporting common values, in facilitating cross-border or supranational cooperation in the EU, and in performing daily actions that express the values of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.