LSMU International Students Share Kindness With Lithuanian Children
There are no boundaries for love. Many of us have heard these words, but are we able to make them true? Are we able to stop and see people around us? The recent events in Lithuania cry that not really, or very little. On the other hand, the opinion starts changing when we see the crowds of international students, enrolled at the Lithuanian University of Health Sciences (LSMU), going to the foster home of children who had little luck in life. There are many people among young, active and career-oriented persons who give their warmth and love to the ones who need them the most.
Loreta Alešiūnaitė, the lecturer from the LSMU Department of Languages and Education, Faculty of Medicine, is teaching the Lithuanian language to the students who have come from abroad. When the lecturer speaks about her job, she shows enviable enthusiasm and love. Loreta, who has made to speak Lithuanian more than one group of the LSMU international students – physicians, dentists and pharmacists – notices that sincere communication is very important for the learning process. Warm relations serve as the language of feelings shared by the lecturer with her students. Maybe that is why the international students express their feedback by visiting the Lithuanian orphans and children with disabilities and carrying annual hope of New Year and Christmas warmth to them …
Dear Loreta, how was the idea born to organize visits to children foster home for LSMU international students?
I have been working with international students at the University from the very beginning – I have been teaching them Lithuanian. I noticed that people who come here to study need not only deep knowledge but also sincere communication, help and advice. It was natural for me to become a ‘shelter’ for such young people in the strange country. Already 12 years ago we had an idea to visit children who have not had much luck in life in Lithuania. Several students from Israel and Lebanon and me started organizing visits to the children foster home. The desire to communicate, play, share, and care has been growing rapidly. Orphans and children with physical or mental disabilities have become our friends. I have noticed that not only me, but also the students felt increasing sense of care. We found that the Christmas and New Year’s holidays become special only when we visit a family in need or a sick child and give them our smiles.
Today all the parties and events are coordinated by KIMSU, the organization of international students studying at LSMU,and the most active volunteers. The administration of LSMU Centre of International Relations and Studies and the employees of the dean’s office also show good will and take part in the events. The University gives the transport for gifts. I say a sincere thank you to them on behalf of the students.
What was the beginning, what did you visit the first?
I guess the first friendship was made with J. Laužikas Special School in Kaunas. We have spent numerous wonderful moments: we were singing, dancing, organizing basketball matches and championship of folk game ‘bocha’ (ball game). LSMU international students come there not only for winter holidays: they celebrate Easter, the Day of the First-Former and other festivals with their young friends. It is wonderful to see a young, career-oriented and active student with his/her little friend sitting together and colouring Easter eggs. At that moment they are in some other world: they are concentrated, gathered together and understanding each other without any words. At such moments tear of joy comes out almost involuntarily.
We have been going to the infant foster home ‘Lopšelis’ to visit the smallest ones for 4 consecutive years already. I would like to share my joy by stating that we are going to ‘Lopšelis’ for the third time this year already, as they could not accommodate us all at one time! It is an incredible feeling to see a strong student playing a Santa Claus. For example, during last holidays we had even two Santa Clauses. Well, the colour of their skin differed, but the joy of the kids may be measured only by the given love and warmth. All the students want to speak, play, cuddle with the young friends, whose hearts get filled with the rays of joy and kindness at such moments. And that is a real, not fake, love. It is pure as a mountain crystal and has no limits.
The students are foreigners: are not the relations with such children broken when they leave?
The students are always changing, but the love remains. The love does not know borders, states or continents. It unites all the people. I can notice that love is constantly growing and the wish to help only gets stronger. We started the event “Love without Boundaries” with 10 volunteers, while today such volunteers cannot be put in 10 cars already! It is wonderful. Besides, when the students change, new ideas are generated how to make young children happy and how to surprise them. We buy hygienic means, special teaching tools or speech therapeutic tools to our young friends. We have been doing this for many years already.
Where are your funds from?
The students have ideas how to earn money to get the children happy. Communication and warmth are priceless values, but these kids also need material support. They need simple and necessary hygienic and teaching means. LSMU international students are incredibly inventive. For example, they organize the cake-baking party or the international food festival. Such events attract the University’s professors and guests who buy the food and works of the students with pleasure. The collected money is given for charity. Diapers, hygienic and teaching means, and toys are the presents bought for earned money.
Why are you doing this?
I find this work very important. I love my students for their sincerity and genuine understanding brought from their countries and families that we are not alone: look around and find someone we can help or someone, with whom we can share the things we have. Kindness and love know no religion or borders. One can grow kindness but its seeds are inside of us. According to American writer Mark Twain, kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.
What changes do you notice in the students who participate in such events?
After each event I hear the same questions (they have stayed the same for many years), why our society takes quite little care about such children and why such small children get to the institutions. Another important question is when we are going to visit our little friends for the next time. I believe that separation and saying good-bye are the most difficult moments: the tears can be seen not only in the eyes of young girls …
Are not such visits traumatic to the kids? Are they necessary? Should universities be encouraged for such events?
Yes, they need us. Yes, we are always welcome there. Yes, we will return there more than once. Yes, we also become richer when we share ourselves and our warmth. Yes, we also need them. Yes, we live nearby and we are able to share love. These are not just my thoughts. It is a mosaic of feelings created by the students.
We would also like to express our gratitude to S. Ratkevičienė, principal of J. Laužikas Special School; teacher L. Vaitiekaitytė; deputy principal L. Navalinskienė; A. Prasauskienė, director of the infant home ‘Lopšelis’, J. Ulozienė, administrator of the infant home; and all the staff for the created possibilities for students to meet their little friends who live in these institutions.
Public Relations Specialist
International Relations and Study Centre
Photos by Oksman Iliya
Faculty of Medicine