I came to teach but I am the one who has been taught

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Lithuania

The Republic of Lithuania, in northern Europe, is similar in size and population to the Republic of Ireland. Vilnius, the capital, is on the same latitude as Newcastle-upon-Tyne but it can get much colder in winter; average temperatures are −6 °C in January. The official language, Lithuanian, is one of the oldest languages in Europe and is related only to Latvian. It is a beautiful country with a rich cultural tradition.

Lithuania has had a long and varied history: in Neolithic times the people traded in amber; during the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the 400-year Lithuanian-Polish alliance Vilnius was one of the most prosperous cities in Europe before decline and incorporation into the Russian empire. Twenty years of independence after the first world war were followed by occupation by Germany and then annexation by the Soviet Union. In 1990 Lithuania became the first Soviet republic to gain independence and is now part of the European Union.

Most Lithuanians (80%) are Catholic, 4.9% are Orthodox, 1.9% are Protestant, 0.1% Jewish (Lithuania was an important centre of Jewish scholarship and culture from the 18th century until they were almost entirely annihilated during the Holocaust), 0.1% Sunni Muslim and 9.5% have no religion. 

The Sisters of the Assumption have been in Lithuania since 1993. They work in Versmė Catholic School (which has over 500 students from 6 to 18, 30% of whom have physical or mental disabilities) and in the parish, teach in the Religious Education department in Vilnius university, and offer retreats and spiritual accompaniment. The Samaritan Community of ten women students and young professionals live alongside them for one or two years and they are also involved in social ministry with the Sisters.

Volunteer Opportunities

Volunteers from the UK are invited to work in Versmė school as English language assistants helping with conversation and pronunciation, giving extra help to children with learning difficulties, assisting disabled children with games, camps, and trips, in and out of school. There are also be opportunities for pastoral and social volunteering in the parish and day-centre. The volunteer presence will add to the school’s vision of openness to the other, mutual respect and free sharing of gifts.

A teaching or psychology qualification would be an asset, along with experience of work with children, teenagers and disabled people; communication skills, openness, flexibility and empathy; and a willingness to learn the language (though most young people there can speak some English). Russian and Polish are also widely spoken.

Living with the Samaritan community volunteers will have contact with young adult Lithuanians as well as the possibility of spiritual accompaniment. The post starts 1 September and finishes in July. 

Rebecca is our first volunteer to Lithuania - read her reflections 

She also writes about the differences in her second year