“Am I ready for this challenge?” – EVS in Kaunas, Lituania

Labas! My name is Cristina and I am doing a European Volunteering Service in Kaunas. I am working as a volunteer at Dienos Socialinės Globos Centras, a social-service daycare center that is intended for children with physical and/or mental disabilities from age 7 to 19.

I have always loved working with children in any kind of environment, but unfortunately I never had the chance to work with children with disabilities before. When I was looking for a project to participate as a volunteer, I went through many interesting projects all around Europe, but this one in particular caught my attention among the rest. It made me think about how fulfilling and rewarding it must be to work with children with disabilities, so I decided to apply for the project. I was lucky enough to be accepted as a volunteer and given a chance to collaborate with Dienos Socialinės Globos Centras for 7 months – And time just seems to fly because it’s already been 3 months since I landed in Kaunas!

My main concern before coming to Lithuania was thinking that maybe I was not emotionally prepared to work with this profile of children and that the language barrier wouldn’t help me on that matter. With my first day approaching, I was getting more and more nervous. I considered this to be a very tough job, one that only some would be prepared to do, and kept asking myself “Am I ready for this challenge?”

I am happy to say I was completely wrong. On my first day, the center was celebrating its 3rd anniversary, so I was welcomed by cheerful and joyful people, not only the children but also the workers. I had a very warm welcome and I loved what I felt, there was so much love being spread!

From the very first moment I could feel the workers truly love their jobs and the children love the way they are treated. The anniversary celebration passed, but this joy has stayed since the very beginning. There’s always something to celebrate: a national day, an international festivity, the birthday of a child or a worker… I’ve had more cake in the last 3 months than in the whole previous year!

The language barrier is still something that hits me every day, but I am finding my way of dealing with it. I love all the children from the center and I can tell that the feeling is mutual. So far, I’ve learned that all you need to connect with them is love and laughter. There’s no space for fear when you work with children with disabilities. They are just children with their own needs (like any other child) who can only give you joy and glory. Despite not speaking Lithuanian (although I am trying my best!), with the body language, face expression and the useful Lithuanian words I have learnt so far, I can say it has been enough for them to accept me as part of the group.

In other words, I am glad I didn’t let my fears push me back because I would have missed one of the best experiences I’ve had so far. I am very grateful that I was given the chance to come and volunteer in Dienos Socialinės Globos Centras. I still have 4 more months left in the center, time in which I am expecting to keep learning, sharing knowledge and beautiful moments with all the members of the center, while trying to be as helpful and useful as I can.

Cristina.