Here is the first post from our Seed of Change volunteer Pedro from Argentina. Pedro is young Argentinian, working in the United Nations Youth organization in Argentina. One of his activities is the work in Food Bank. He currently studies political science.
My first week
At last I came to Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, after almost 20 hours of flying! From the sky I saw this country with snowy temples and started imagining Lithuanians more like Nordic vikings rather than salsa dancers from the Caribbean’s. I expected a cold welcome. How surprised I was when I met Kamile and Paulius, my Lithuanian colleagues, who instantly made me feel at home.
This week I had no specific activities in the National Institute for Social Integration, so I took the opportunity to see the city and get to know my flat-mates, Jurij and Sham. Although I’m just discovering the city, I already see – Lithuanians have many things to be proud of, as well as things that remind of a difficult and sad times. Vilnius is a city of long and wide avenues, as well as narrow old streets and alleys. Old buildings build in other centuries demonstrate facades with quirky sculptures and ornaments; often by the side one can find very modern glass buildings with sleek and elegant curves.
Jurij, who claims to be Russian, not Lithuanian, because he was born before the Lithuanian Independence in 1990, is the owner of the apartment. He often talks about the importance of engineers; he tries to convince me that change and progress of a country and the world is in the hands of the engineers and not the politicians. He has an open and sociable personality. Sham, a Syrian, lives in Vilnius and gives Arabic lessons. He is very intellectual and critical, but unlike Jurij is much more reserved. We like living together, although we do not spend a lot of time together.
Neringa is the director of the Institute. She takes care of practical matters of my time here. Almost like my Lithuanian mother she looks that I would eat, sleep well, have an activity… I feel very comfortable and secure here, I know I can turn to my colleagues if something happened to me. Kamile is the Latino in this group. She is passionate and active, especially when speaking of aboriginal issue in southern Chile, she expects people to take the matter very seriously – I would not want to know what would happen if someone disrespected the topic! She took me to the jazz improvisation event. It was the first time I heard this kind of music; it was strange at first, but after a few minutes you start to appreciate it and it actually is very enjoyable. We were in an alternative library, where a book by Borges was auctioned. I also saw several books about Che Guevara – a strange sentimental experience.
Artur is the driver of the Social Taxi. I will describe this project in detail in my next post. Artur is very friendly and sociable, has a very good relationship with the passengers and with his co-workers. It seems he knows everyone; while we were in cafe he was greeted by every single person there.
Certainly I cannot complain about the people I have to live and work with in Vilnius. I’ve been very lucky.
The realities of European organizations are very different from those of Latin America; those who have experience in volunteering will know what I am talking about. Here, and in other European countries, the volunteers have a monetary compensation. In Latin America, most of the organizations work only with the unpaid volunteer work. In Europe organizations have smaller number of paid people who work on fewer, but bigger projects. In Latin America a lot of organizations have more volunteers that work on smaller projects; as well a lot of different people with personal preferences can slow work down. This does not necessarily imply the projects are of lesser impact or value. The difference is in the possibilities.
Anyway, in the following post, I will tell you more about the Social Taxi, my adventures in Lithuania and the work at the Institute.