In 1999 the International Women‘s Association of Vilnius started organising smaller, nationally-oriented Christmas fairs as part of its annual meetings featuring Lithuanian charitable organisations and their products.
The seed for the present International Christmas Charity Bazaar was planted in 2002, when the founders sought to build a more broadly-based charitable initiative representing an endeavour and achievement of a group of women acting in the interest of those without the voices or means to help themselves. Following on the success of a bazaar held at the residence of the Austrian ambassador, the group worked to strengthen the foundation of what would become an annual tradition.
The first International Christmas Charity Bazaar took place on Saturday, November 22, 2003 in Vilnius City Hall (Rotušė). About 15 country representations and 10 charitable organizations participating in the event raised more than 60.000 LTL (~18.000 EUR) for Lithuanian organisations serving children. Since then the Organising Committees of the International Christmas Charity Bazaar have sought to increase the participation of national communities, international schools, sponsors, volunteers, and visitors. The official beneficiaries have expanded to include Lithuanian organisations serving women and the elderly in addition to children.
Since 2003 the initiative has raised more than 1 million euros. More than 30 international communities organise the event with the help of about 500 volunteers and the attendance of more than 5000 visitors.
All the organisers of the Christmas Bazaar are volunteers, who commit to the requirement that money collected on the day of the event and related activities go directly to the beneficiaries, which are Lithuanian organisations. The volunteers are not compensated, and the International Women’s Association of Vilnius does not deduct fees for its role as a non-profit, non-governmental, non-partisan intermediary.
Each year prospective beneficiaries are invited to apply for support on the basis of a recommendation by a municipality or head of non-profit organisation. Candidates’ applications are reviewed by a committee, which considers requests for support by invitation only based on specific criteria and conditions. The committee conducts site visits before making a final selection and after the donation has been transferred and maintains close contact with the beneficiary organisations in all aspects of the process.
The founders of the International Christmas Charity Bazaar initiative are: Charlotte Davnie (USA), Åshild Hauge (Norway), Gunilla Possenius (Sweden), Rose-Marie Schwarzinger (Austria), and Birutė Vizgirdienė (Lithuania).
The past ICCB Chairs are: Ethel Cushing (UK), Benita Guillaume (Lithuania), Siobhán Denham (Ireland), Mauricette Gady-Laumonier (France), Sarah Hunt (UK), Gunilla Possenius (Sweden), Rose-Marie Schwarzinger (Austria), Mercedes Sprouse-Mickevicius (USA), and Marie-Anne Verdonck-Anciaux (Belgium). The long term Treasurer is: Barbara Little (UK).