Sincere hello to everyone, I am Mehmet Ogün ÖZTUNCA. While studying international relations at Ege University, I always wanted to participate in a long-term ESC project when I graduate. I as one of the first corona graduates, started looking for a project as soon as I said goodbye to my university. I applied for many projects but only got acceptance from Portugal and Lithuania. Both of these projects were not as long as I wanted, they were only 3 and 4 months. But I wanted to go anyway. Because the future was so uncertain due to the pandemic.
I chose the Lithuanian project because I study Russian language, also because I had already had volunteering experiences with children and wanted to develop myself in another field. So, I knew that the vast majority of people over a certain age in Lithuania could speak Russian and the target group of my project would be at least 30 years old, which is the group I would like to work with.
As I accepted, I contacted Pi Youth Association for sending organization support. They took care of each stage in a professional way more than I expected and made me feel that I have a sending organization that does its job very well and thinks volunteer-oriented.
My Host Organization: Caritas
After finishing the quarantine alone in a hotel room that my institution arranged for me for 14 days, I worked in a shelter in the capital city Vilnius, 6 hours a day, 5 days a week. At first, I was carrying a lot of goods due to the renovation in the building, but then my main tasks started.
The organization I work for, Caritas, is an international charity organization. I even heard from other ESC volunteers I met there that some of their acquaintances were a volunteer in Caritas in their home country. Caritas, my host organization, really paid significant attention to pay all the money on time and they even paid whole amount of money I paid for flight ticket, although the cost exceeded the limit of payment for flight tickets due to Coronavirus-induced cancellations. They really care about their volunteer’s problems and never left their volunteers alone and without support.
What Did I Do?
Clothes and food donations were coming to the shelter where I worked, and we also sometimes attended events called “Foodbank” in supermarkets to collect donations. I was sorting these donations that we collected or received in the warehouse and put them on the shelves in an order. When necessary, I went to the rooms on the upper floors that our residents live and gave their needs such as bedlinens and pillows. Personally, my favorite work was being on duty in the room next to the entrance door. The reason why it is my favourite work is that I was able to either interact with the target group of the project more or study in Russian and Lithuanian on the computer. During that work, I was guiding people according to what they were coming for, handing over the keys of the rooms, helping our residents going to the laundry room and dealing with the regular distribution of food donation boxes.
This project has helped me understand how wrong prejudice against the homeless people is. However, I have experienced the spiritual pleasure of working for social good and being beneficial for them. There were also either English speakers among them or people who learned a few sentences and tried to talk to me just to communicate with me, although they do not know how to speak in English. My favorite person was Ilona, who is a fan of Turkish Megastar Tarkan and whom I chat with frequently.
Lithuanian People and Life
Among the 13 countries I have visited so far, the people of Lithuania were definitely the most helpful, kind and friendly people to me. Both my colleagues and the woman, who cannot speak and understand English, at the train station of the town with a population of 18,000, and even the passport police were all as friendly as I mentioned.
If you are going to Vilnius from a big city, most likely you will consider it as a very quiet and small city, although it is the capital city. But it is a city with a lot of international students. For this reason, it hosts restaurants of many different cultures and respect for different cultures. I have met people from many different countries and even from different continents. For example, from Uganda, India, Belgium, Georgia, Scotland and so on. As it can be understood from this, Lithuania is a country with a very high rate of speaking English among young people. In this way, you can adapt quickly and enter social life by making friends easily.
The Volunteer of ESC-128 Lithuania Project “Mehmet Ogün Öztunca”
Pi Gençlik Derneği (Pi Youth Association)