Labas! I’m Luise and I was a volunteer at Šatrija from September 2018 to June 2019. I grew up in a rural town in Bavaria and had a very unusual EVS by most standards. My service started off with various issues and was throughout riddled with unexpected health issues, but through it all Šatrija was incredibly supportive and helpful.
Šatrija is an amazing place with an awesome mission. It’s a place for kids to discover new sides and talents within themselves. Let it be dancing, creativity, acting, defending yourself or communicating in a different language. It is education in a non-formal, exciting way. It is a community dedicated to give children space to develop their interests and talents in many different fields.
Šatrija itself is actually a pretty old institution, but is changing and re-inventing itself constantly. The staff has a lot of experience hosting volunteers and is very considerate about the tasks and responsibilities volunteers should/shouldn’t handle (which is really important during EVS).
As I already touched on, Šatrija’s offers are very diverse and so is the work of the volunteers. Of course we have our standard tasks that every volunteer has to do, but everything else depends on your interests and skills. You want to support events, info stands and support the communications team? Ask! You’re more the art person? Support the art class! You enjoy sports or dance? Some of the teachers would love to have some support for their class!
My personal project was a theatre group for teens, as I already had prior theatre experience. Originally, I planned to bring a play on stage, but because I started the group rather late and struggled with my health in between I couldn’t realise the play and stuck with improvisation theatre. For me working with kids and teens was fairly new and a little scary, but I learned a lot.
One of my favourite tasks at Šatrija was, hands down, the art class for the little kids aged four to six. My main job was to prepare and clean up before and after the class and assist the kids to make sure they have everything they need and help them when they are struggling. After a while you start to notice the growth and talent of the kids and gain their attention and affection and learn to communicate with them, even if you don’t speak much Lithuanian.
Generally speaking, my EVS taught me a lot of other things.
Travelling during the service is, in my humble opinion, overrated. Most volunteers tend to take long bus rides through half of Europe every weekend, instead of getting to know Vilnius.
Vilnius is a beautiful city with so much to offer. There is culture, art, music and history everywhere if you know where to look. Find some locals (Lithuanians enjoy showing off their country/city) or grab some volunteer friends and go exploring. Do some research, learn about this country and you’ll be surprised how much there actually is. Don’t be scared to do some “touristy” stuff! Climb up to Gediminas Tower, visit a few museums, get lost and find new routes through the city. Vilnius is a city of contrast, history and hidden beauty.
Lithuanian is a weird wizard language. After 10 months I still cannot tell you what it sounds like. Though I do regret not learning it properly (due to circumstances), I’m glad for the words and phrases I picked up, especially when working with kids. Don’t get discouraged and learn as much as you can, even if you feel stupid working on your pronunciation or when people don’t understand you. The more time you spent actively listening to Lithuanian, the better it’ll get. After all Lithuanian is one of the oldest, still spoken language in Europe and only native to 3 million people. You can learn a lot about a country by observing their language, even if it’s just a few words and especially phrases.
All in all, I enjoyed my EVS through all hardships and fell in love with Vilnius and Lithuania. I met some incredibly awesome people here and learned a lot about myself. I regret nothing, except maybe leaving.