Dear friends and supporters,

every year again… also this year Jurate Bogacz, Ingrid and Otmar Debald from the board team traveled to Lithuania at the beginning of September. As in previous years, it was a journey full of intense experiences, moving encounters and joy at the diverse progress we were able to perceive.

Because there is so much to tell, here is a short summary of Otmar Debald’s trip report. You can then read the report in full below (link to full report).

SONATAS FAMILY IN MARIJAMPOLE

Also this year we started our visiting program in Marijampole, at Sonata’s foster family, where 9 children currently live. All are well. Gabija can smile again after the successful dental treatment and has gained a lot of self-confidence. Sonata and her caregivers lovingly care for the children (some of whom have genetic developmental disabilities). Sonata and her caregivers lovingly care for the children as they all have special needs. We were pleased to see a lot of development progress compared to the previous year. The only new occupant of the house is a 17-year-old young man who was placed in Sonata’s home by Child Protective Services earlier this year because he had been severely abused by his father for years. After some initial reluctance, he came to trust us and we were able to convince him to participate in the PATRIA camp, which was very good for him and gave us the opportunity to get to know him much better.

PATRIA TEAM IN KAUNAS

We then drove to Kaunas to meet Rita Skriadaite, our project manager from the PATRIA team. We are extremely happy and grateful that Rita has been our closest partner since the beginning of the Patria project, with whom we have jointly developed and implemented the concept for the care of the young adults. Rita stands for continuity, quality and constant development on a successful basis. Without them, our work in Lithuania would not be as successful.

At a team meeting with PATRIA, we also met two new educators who started working at Patria this year. We have talked about some youth with special therapy needs and have agreed to financially support therapy interventions at Patria’s recommendation to a certain extent.

PATRIA CAMP WITH 18 YOUNG PEOPLE

18 young people participated in the camp this year. We were very pleased that we already knew most of them – either because they have already participated in the previous year or we have known them for very many years, having supported them as children in the village of Marijampole. For example, we have Valdas a young man of small stature who lost his ability to walk in an accident a few years ago and is now struggling to regain his mobility with a rollator. Valdas is a great role model for everyone – including us – because he not only accepts his disability with determination, great will and humor, but never gives up and exemplifies a positive attitude to life.

Building a network among the participating youth is an important goal of the camp. It is promoted through workshops with „team building“ content. For this purpose PATRIA invites professional therapists from Lithuania. On Saturday, such workshops were held throughout the day. This year, it was all about „bonding“ – with people, with animals, with yourself. In a workshop, the young adults learned about attachment styles, how they affect their lives, and what they can do if they are not securely attached to gain a greater sense of safety. The second workshop was about emotions and how they find expression in the body. Through the dance forms, they have been feeling into their bodies and going through different emotions to connect more mindfully with themselves and become more aware of safe attachments.

On the final day, a trip to a horse farm was on the agenda. Last year we had already consciously used the encounter with animals as a therapy element successfully during a visit to an alpaca farm. This year we visited a farm specialized in horse therapy. We were very impressed with the program. Here, too, the same theme of „binding“ would be at issue. Within a short time, even fearful youngsters have found confidence/connection with the big animals. For example, there was Otilija, whom we have known for more than ten years from the Children’s Village in Marijampole as a fearful young girl. Suddenly, after a short period of familiarization, she was leading a horse on a leash through the gate, visibly exuding confidence. Because this form of therapy was so noticeably effective, we talked with the PATRIA team about offering such equine therapy programs on a regular basis.

Valdas with his favorite horse

Deimante: I took a lot of motivation and strength from the camp, that you should always learn from your mistakes, not be afraid to make mistakes and not give up, because if you want to, everything is possible.

These words from Deimante at the closing session describe the difference our work with the PATRIA team makes for young people and the difference we can make. We are very happy about the course and the success of the camp. It’s also that we have a personal presence as a board team. Over many years, the program has evolved step by step. Thanks to the work of the PATRIA team and especially thanks to the work of Jurate Bogacz, who year after year leads the planning of the camp with the PATRIA team, herself has many conversations with the young people in their language and with great empathy makes an important contribution to the success of the camp.

We would be very happy if more members and supporters of our association would join us next year. It is a wonderful experience also for us guests with many lasting memories. The date of the camp for 2024 is already fixed: it will be held again in the houses in Kaunas from 6 to 8 September 2024.

On Friday, November 10, 2023, we will hold our annual general meeting of members at 7 pm. It will be held this year in Kronberg/Ts. take place. Please reserve the date already, an invitation will follow soon.

Dear friends and supporters, we are happy about the good developments in our Lithuania project and that we can share them with you. Thank you very much for your many years of loyalty and for your attention!

Many warm greetings send you

Yours Ingrid and Otmar Debald

and the team of „Kinder- und Jugendhilfe in Litauen e.V.“.

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LONG VERSION

In the meantime, the date of the trip at the beginning of September has proven itself. The children and young people are just returning from summer vacation. There is a joyful mood of optimism in the country: „Here we go again“. And this is how the journey went for us:

SONATAS FAMILY IN MARIJAMPOLE

Also this year we started our visiting program in Marijampole, at Sonata’s foster family. All the children we visited there the previous year are still in Sonata’s big house in the middle of the city. With the exception of 18-year-old Gabija, who recently moved into a small apartment as an adult, but keeps close contact with her family in Sonata’s house, as her 4 siblings also live there. Gabija was then also present during our visit. The meeting with Gabija was a great joy. After all, we have supported them for almost two years with funds from our medical aid fund to treat their genetically caused malformations of the teeth. The whole treatment lasted well over a year and is now almost complete. It was a great ordeal for the young woman, but it was really worth it. Gabija now has a bright, healthy set of teeth and finally likes to show her smile. Her self-confidence has visibly and noticeably increased, and besides moving out of Sonata’s house, the biggest change for her is that she has entered into the first committed relationship in her life. She looked happy.

The other children in Sonata’s house are also doing well. Several of the children have genetic developmental disabilities. Sonata and her caregivers lovingly take care of the children and we could see a lot of progress compared to last year. The only new occupant of the house is a 17-year-old young man who was placed in Sonata’s home by Child Protective Services earlier this year because he had been severely abused by his father for years. We reported on this in the last newsletter. After some initial reluctance, he came to trust us and we were able to convince him to participate in the PATRIA camp, which did him a lot of good and gave us the opportunity to get to know him in depth.

Sonata has told us that unfortunately the lease for the house will not be renewed and that in the fall she will have to move with the whole family to a new house, which is a bit out of town. We have asked Sonata to contact us if she needs assistance for the move. We will return to this topic again as part of our Christmas campaign. Sonata and the children also told us about their summer vacations, during which they were able to go on some excursions, for which we also provided financial support.

CHILDREN’S VILLAGE IN MARIJAMPOLE

A word about the large Vaiko Teviskes children’s village in Marijampole, which we have supported for two decades. We could not visit the village this year. There are only 6 children living there anyway, and they will all be adults next year. After that, the long history of the Children’s Village will come to an end. On the one hand, we are saddened by this, but we are happy to see that the changes in youth care in Lithuania, with the formation of smaller family units, are having a positive effect, as can be seen in Sonata’s family.

PATRIA TEAM IN KAUNAS

In the evening of the first day, we then drove to Kaunas to meet Rita Skriadaite, our project manager from the PATRIA team. We talked with her over dinner about the camp starting the next day and her experience working with the youth and young adults. We are extremely happy and grateful that Rita has been our closest partner since the beginning of the Patria project, with whom we have jointly developed and implemented the concept for the care of the young adults. Rita stands for continuity, quality and constant development on a successful basis. Without them, our work in Lithuania would not be as successful.

The first day of the camp in Kaunas started with a team meeting together with the PATRIA support staff. We also met two new educators who started their work at PATRIA this year. Unfortunately, the fluctuation in the social professions is very high in Lithuania, as the jobs are very poorly paid and Lithuania has a very high inflation rate. Social workers therefore often move into teaching jobs or the private sector, where pay is significantly better. We have talked about some young people who have special therapy needs and have agreed to financially support therapy measures on PATRIAa’s recommendation within certain limits.

PATRIA CAMP WITH 18 YOUNG PEOPLE

In the afternoon, the camp began with the now traditional meeting of campers with alumni who previously participated in the PATRIA program. It is enormously important for the new participants in the program to see how the young people have developed professionally but also in their personalities as a result of Patria’s support. In a relaxed atmosphere – with wonderful summer weather – we listened to the stories and experiences outside on the newly built and now also covered terrace.

18 young people participated in the camp this year. We were very pleased that we already knew most of them – either because they have already participated in the previous year or we have known them for very many years, having supported them as children in the village of Marijampole. For example, we saw Valdas again, a young man of small stature who had lost his ability to walk due to an accident a few years ago and is now laboriously regaining mobility with a rollator. Valdas is a great role model for everyone – including us – because he not only accepts his disability with determination, great will and humor, but never gives up and exemplifies a positive attitude to life.

We also met Edvardas again, now 18 years old. He was a seven-year-old boy when we met him. At that time he lived in one of the two Kaunas houses, in the place where the camp was held. Returning to the place where he spent much of his childhood was very moving for him.

Building a network among the participating youth is an important goal of the camp. It is promoted through workshops with „team building“ content. For this purpose we invite professional therapists from Lithuania. On Saturday, such workshops were held throughout the day. This year there was a workshop in which the participants experienced through dance forms to feel into their bodies, to release emotional brakes and to take away tips to use in stressful situations.

This year we also used a professional photographer again, assisted by a beautician who produced wonderful portraits of the young adults. We have already experienced in previous camps that a really well-made photo also boosts the young people’s self-confidence.

Campers stayed in the Kaunas houses, along with two of the camp counselors. Campfire romance is a deliberate design element of the camp. The first night was correspondingly long, after which we looked into some sleepy faces.

On the final day, a trip to a horse farm was on the agenda. Last year we had already consciously used the encounter with animals as a therapy element successfully during a visit to an alpaca farm. This year we visited a farm specialized in equine therapy, run by an experienced social pedagogue who practices equine assisted therapy professionally. We were very impressed with the program. Within a short time, even fearful youngsters have found confidence in the big animals. For example, there was Otilija, whom we have known for more than ten years from Marijampole village as an anxious young girl. Suddenly, after a short period of familiarization, she was leading a horse on a leash through the gate, visibly exuding confidence.

Because this form of therapy was so noticeably effective, we talked with the Patria team about offering such equine therapy programs on a regular basis.

As always, the camp ended with a relaxed meal with all participants in a very relaxed atmosphere. Most of the participants visibly and noticeably blossomed during the 3 days. What the camp means to its participants speaks best from the words of the participants, which touched us very much:

Luca: After 23 years, I cried not from pain but from happiness. This camp for me was about values and relationships. Probably no institution in Kaunas has such a relationship with young people as this camp. For me it is something special, help and desire to improve the life of a young person. These camps raised me and showed me that there were good people in the world who cared about me and took the time to take on such a long journey of three days. For me it is a gift to be able to be there.

Deimante: I took a lot of motivation and strength from the camp, that you should always learn from your mistakes, not be afraid to make mistakes and not give up, because if you want to, everything is possible.

These words describe the difference our work with the PATRIA Team Team makes for young people and the difference we can make. We are very happy about the course and the success of the camp. We also believe that it is important for us to have a personal presence as a board team. Over many years, the program has evolved step by step. Thanks to the work of the PATRIA team and especially thanks to the work of Jurate Bogacz, who year after year leads the elaborate planning of the camp with the PATRIA team, even has many conversations with the young people in their language and with great empathy makes an important contribution to the success of the camp.

We would be very happy if more members and supporters of our association would join us next year. It is a wonderful experience also for us guests with many lasting memories. The date of the camp for 2024 is already fixed: it will be held again in the houses in Kaunas from 6 to 8 September 2024.

On Friday, November 10, 2023, we will hold our annual general meeting of members at 7 pm. It will be held this year in Kronberg/Ts. take place. Please reserve the date already, an invitation will follow soon.

Dear friends and supporters, we are happy about the good developments in our Lithuania project and that we can share them with you. Thank you very much for your many years of loyalty and for your attention!

Many warm greetings send you

Yours Ingrid and Otmar Debald

and the team of „Kinder- und Jugendhilfe in Litauen e.V.“.