Hello everybody, I am Anna from Ukraine. I was born in a big industrial city in the south of my beautiful country 26 years ago.
In my “previous life” I’ve been working for three years in Communication Department of the biggest steel giant in Zaporizhzhja – JSC Zaporizhstal. I started my work right away after the graduation from university, but I always wanted to work with children.
For this dream, I had appropriate background in the field of media education for kids in the Crimea: I had three years of experience working in the summer camp like a head of media center. But after annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation it was impossible to continue my work.
So, I chose a serious work related to reputation and business communication in the big industrial giant. My job was interesting and well-paid, but I felt that something was wrong – it was not work for the soul. And one day I decided to change my life and start my infinity journey. Magic happens !
Why Lithuania? I believe, I didn’t choose Lithuania, but Lithuania chose me. I send out a few letters in order to apply for the different project in the different countries, but I wasn’t successful. When I saw EVS vacancy in the climbing gym, I immediately felt that was MY project. In the beginning, I even didn’t notice that the country was Lithuania. I couldn’t believe in my luck! I tried to find EVS project in the country with mountains or at least at the city with climbing gym. I was planning to work with children in the school or kindergarten, but I even couldn’t imagine that volunteering in the climbing gym exists!
I am a volunteer in NGO “Sleeping Elephants” promoting healthy and active lifestyle, mainly known for climbing sports in Lithuania. My main activities are training with children and adults with disabilities.
For instance, Ernesta is an incredible climber in spite of the fact that she has a cerebral palsy. Her way to the climbing wall began two years ago. Romanian volunteer Alex had the first training session with Ernest in April 2015. I realized that I have an important job – maintain her achievements and move only forward. I think that in 6 months we’ve made a lot of progress. We train thrice a week. We start with a warmup, gradually move to some yoga, acroyoga. We also use TRX straps. Afterwards, we climb for an hour and complete between 4 and 10 routes! During this time, Ernesta has made significant progress. She can now do things that used to seem very difficult. She now uses special climbing shoes, which allow her to try more and more difficult routes. Ernesta is a great inspiration to all of us. She has a great sense of humor and an infinite amount of energy. Her goal this spring is to no longer need her walker! With the team that is supporting her, it truly is possible.
Also I have my training with Audriukas. This cheerful 11-years old boy makes me happy every time when we meet! You have to be very fast and patient working with him. In return you will receive the tons of positive and energy. We climbed together once per week and our training consist of climbing traverse and climbing with ropes. Usually I use his favorite toy cars and place them in the wall. After this tiny trick, he will climb his top 100%
In addition, I haveparaclimbing activities with kids twice per week. Usually we have exercises, climbing games and climbing with ropes. Moreover, I spend with them one time per week in the swimming pool. It gives me very nice feeling – I can help and bring positive in their everyday life. I can say that we are nice friends now and we support each other during competition or training.
Once per month I have activities in the climbing gym with kids with Down Syndrome. We have fun together involving parents and arranging interesting and fancy games.
Recently, we had new training with blind kids and children with autism. It was great experience for both sides: for volunteers and for kids. We had to adapt our climbing training for other conditions and faced new challenges. I’d like to continue our partnership and work with this group.
Moreover, I feel very comfortable helping organize others activities in the gym: birthdays, educational climbing training for schoolchildren and camps. In the same time, I really love to spend my free time in the gym sharing basic climbing experience with beginners.
My volunteering in NGO “Sleeping Elephants” gives me a lot: sharing, caring, smiling, inspiration and positive energy. That’s why I wake up every day with smile. Maybe it is my ikigai - my reason for being?
I can’t imagine my life without my fantastic colleagues from the climbing gym and NGO “Sleeping Elephants”. The most important thing for me is that the values of this organization and the lifestyle of people around completely matches and satisfy me. We took part in the competition together, travel together and help each other every day. That’s why I feel here like at home, in one big family.
Besides my formal volunteering, I found out other opportunities how to be helpful in Kaunas thanks to my coordinating organization Patria. Twice per week a friend of mine and me join English Speaking Club for elderly people. We just come and help Lithuanian seniors to improve English. We have five participants and our English club is not the limit. Once we visited interesting castle in Raudondvaris. And recently, we cooked together some dinner. I appreciate our club because of very cozy atmosphere and positive energy. We teach each other a lot just sharing our experience and through communication. We can speak with seniors English, Russian and Lithuanian. Our learning is a mutual process.
What I can say about Lithuanian language? Like all EVS volunteers I had my Lithuanian classes for three months. I had a very nice teacher Birute. She paid my attention to the speaking part without a lot of grammar. Thanks to her lessons I can communicate with children fluently and without any problems.
Traveling is my passion. And EVS is very suitable time to visit new countries and see beautiful places. I have already visited Poland, Norway, France, Denmark, Russia, Germany, Belgium and Netherlands. And I hope it is not the end.
Although, I felt a lack of sunny days all long winter, I really love Kaunas and Lithuania because of great warm people with hot hearts around me. I found out a lot of similarities with Kaunas and my lovely native city. So, I am very glad to show you my discovery.
Firstly, Kaunas is a very green city where are situated many parks and hills - you can go trekking or jogging here. For example, both Kaunas and Zaporizhzhja have the great parks with old oaks. The name of this park in Kaunas is Ąžuolynas (Eng. Oak’s park). The name of the same park in my native city is Dubovka with the same meaning. So, I felt like at home during my walking in this big lawny area.
Secondly, there is Nemunas Island in the center of Kaunas which are situated in the middle of the same name river. We had the similar island in Zaporizhzhja, but much larger. Nemunas Island is like small copy of Khortytsia Island. This peace of true nature reminds me the breathtaking rocks and cliffs, stunning nature and hiking trails in my homeland.
Thirdly, my life has not changed very much when I left my home and moved to Kaunas. I always was very busy at home and work, doing a lot of staff together. To be honest, I worked hard and had an awesome period of fun after. The life of workaholic is not easy. But now I have the same activities like I had in my “previous life” before applying for EVS. For instance, I usually go climbing several times per week. I didn’t change my lifestyle because I am working with my passion now. Also I go to the swimming pool with kids, visit Language Exchange club and Couchserfing meetings, and spend a lot of time outside because I am definitely outdoor person. There are many activities that I follow like in my native city – kayaking, camping, slackline, badminton and so on.
To make long story short, just do it, become a volunteer! You will make great friends, see new places, learn different cultures, have a sense of achievement and make a difference!