Hi everyone! My name is Olya and I am volunteer in NGO «Miegantys dramliai» (Sleeping elephants), in Kaunas, Lithuania. This is climbing center and its projects devoted to the integration process for people with disabilities. Duration of my project is one year and I am here 10 months already. I regret to accept the fact that I have to by home way ticket already.
It is very hard to define where to start.
Probably, it is better to start from the beginning?
When I just came, I had 2 weeks to adapt. Because, frankly speaking, everything seems “not like at home” for obvious reasons. Meal, all the products weren’t tasty, because “in Ukraine we have much better”. Everything you get used to – are disappearing. You have to deal with new culture, rules, mentality even if we are not so far from each other in this field. Oh, and Lithuanian language! It is something…. First, you can recognize any word; you can hear only sounds or very very long word and thinking “maybe it is time to go back home?". It is frightening, uncomfortable, you fell yourself as an alien. You have to understand that it is comfort zone I am talking about and mostly about how to get out of it. It is new experience. Moreover, if you accept that, you are open to that – everything will change for better.
I would like to say that I am very lucky. Organization I am working in – is a family. They, without knowing it themselves, helped me to adapt. When you are learning something new everyday, when you are surrounded with people you’d like to spend 24 hours per day, when you can see results of your work and everything has a positive impact – all of these just motivated you and inspired to do more and better.
Of course, for a long time language was a barrier. Communication – is very important especially when working with kids. You are struggling to catch every word, you are trying to understand what people are talking about, and you are asking colleagues to write down numbers, colors, days of the week in order to learn and then kids are starting to help you. Very important thing is not being afraid to ask for help. All Lithuanians as other people are melting when they see that somebody is trying to learn their language. Coordinating organization also helped a lot they organized Lithuanian classes for 3 months. But practice is very important. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes.
I think you are interested in what I am doing in the organization. I am afraid that I don’t have the exact answer or I can list all the activities. Mainly, it is kids trainings but a lot of other super interesting events and activities.
Let me introduce you Evelina. She is a kid with special needs. We went to Klaipeda together with other kids to support them in competition. Evelina had the opportunity to participate in that competition on equal basis because we are not allow to grow victim syndrome inside but show her and everyone that SHE CAN. When we came back after she asked me to tell her about all future competitions. Of course, it was far from ideal. I said to her that we have to work a lot, if she wants participate. And we did.
Also, I have individual trainings with a girl with cerebral palsy. I was assisting to the physiotherapist and she taught me a lot and still doing it. I am still nerves before trainings. But she is awesome. So, please, meet – Ernesta. I have never met such a strong person as she is.
We have super funny trainings with kids.
Every months we organize competition for climbers. I love these events. A lot of work but different work and very interesting as well. For example, we have to take off all the holds from the walls, wash them because of climbing chalk and footprints after climbing shoes and then to make 50 brandly new routes.
Of course I have free time. I am traveling, I had the opportunity to visit my friends in Poland, went to Finland, Norway, Italy. I am meeting friends. I am reading books. I am climbing.
Unfortunately, I can’t estimate how strongly I have changed from the beginning but there is the fact that I am changed.
To be honest, I can continue but I appreciate your and my time. The only one thing I would like to say to the future volunteers – choose the project not country. Everything depends on you. How this project will go. If you don’t like it – it is because of you. If you are bored there – just because of you.
Good luck in searching you soulmate project!