The history of the origins of Youth Village from the lips of  Lithuanian priest: "When I came to Rwanda in 1968, I mostly worked for the poor and abandoned and for those who had been marginalized by everyone. As I made my way on this pilgrimage through human misery and poverty, I would always be accompanied by youngsters who were pleased to be with me. These very friends one day asked me to think about them too; to think about their futures which at the time seemed to offer no prospects whatsoever. They were illiterate and jobless. I asked what I could do for them in practical terms. The answer I gave was that they wanted to study and learn a trade. So, this is how the idea for the ‘Children's Village' was born."
IMG_5127 (Edited)The 2019 year I started in a meaningful way: I decided to go for volunteering at the Youth Village in Rwanda that was founded by Lithuanian Salesian priest Herman Schulz. Name Herman in Latin means a "man of war." Such is a Lithuanian priest, who celebrated his 50-th anniversary of the priesthood in Lithuania, Klaipeda city on 2018 autumn. The Salesian missionary, benefactor Herman Schulz, most of his life devoted to God, for disadvantaged children, poor and ill people. The 50 years of his service he wittily called "long shot," and admitted: "everything I would repeat." Being of saint J. Bosco follower added:" if you want to become good, do it, and all will go well: enjoy, learn, pray." Priest Herman Schulz I knew a long time ago. I always visit him in his homeland in Lithuania not far from city Kretinga, where he set up "Garden of Youth" in which as the same as in Rwanda finds shelter children from disadvantaged families. In 2018 with a group of tourists we were traveling in Uganda and Rwanda. Being in Rwanda, we visited the Youth Garden. But I was there as a tourist. Hospitable hosts welcomed us; children showed their songs and dances. They spoke to us something in their language one through another one. After this visit I gave the word to myself: I will come back here for volunteering, to help in any works that will be needed._DSC0337 The Garden is home to about 150 wards: orphans, fondling children, collected from the streets, caught in snitching. With older children constantly works volunteers from all over the world, come to prepare their masters works who are studying sociology, psychology, etc. Adults better speak English; communication with them easier. With the smallest ones works the nuns, to whom are difficult to find activities for children, as they so pry, eager. The nuns are busy with daily chores; the checking of lessons and kids often are left on their own.IMG_5259 (Edited) _DSC0324"Our little ones seriously lack communication, many of them do not even know what the words mom, dad, brother means. They know nothing about their relatives, or they have brothers or sisters, where are their parents, why they were thrown into the street" just holding tears was telling the priest. So we were speaking after his jubilee mass in his Lithuanian home.  After that, I said to the priest: I would come and would work with the smallest ones. The priest kindly agreed to take me. After completing the visa formalities, I went for a month. The whole time I was anxious: how children will like me as I don't know their language, how we'll communicate between themselves. In the end, I decided that the easiest way of communication is music. From computer I chose a lot of easy, teaching English songs, cartoons, all it converted into Mp3 format so we could watch and learn even having no internet connection (it was so often).After arrival the next day  I was introduced to the nuns, among which one was speaking English and became my translator. Later I learned a few phrases of the local language. But for us closer brought music and work, as we have worked all together. Here children begin to learn from  5 years old (preschool learning), from 6 years they go to the first class. Education lasts 12 years. Children have to go to the school to the jungle trail about 5 kilometers, for the first shift lessons begins from 8 a.m., for the second- from noon. For the older one's studies lasts from  8 to 5 p.m. Adults and first shift of littles are going together.

IMG_5147 (Edited)IMG_E5101IMG_5276 (Edited)IMG_5320 (Edited)IMG_E5017When the first shift leaves for school, we with remaining in the Youth Village kids begin every day works: we had to bring firewood for the wood-fired stoves  that's are used for the cooking, to brought grass for the rabbits, to clean territory, to wash the clothes of children. The Youth Village has a great supporting farm: cows, sheep,  hens, grows various vegetables. The farm employs salaried workers. In the country, where the unemployment is at a high level, work on the farm for surrounding villagers is a big financial help.

_DSC0307 Padre(as the children and the whole community name a priest), for rural peoples, is a great authority: he is the judge, advisor, even a doctor. He has a big parish and once a week attends sick parishioners giving them money, food, sometimes the medicines. My work has gone one after another. Games, songs, training remained for evenings. Children very willingly and quickly learned English songs, nice chanted in the church. A large celebration was st.J. Bosco birthday. Entire rural communities attended the ceremony. It consisted of various artistic performances, sports competitions, quizzes. Few songs prepared my little children, although we sang in English, the audience caught the rhythm and clapped in rhythm.( it is sad, that Icannot place a video because file is too large) Time ran out quickly. Week changed the week. I did not notice when I came up with my farewell.

_DSC0323 For my last evening, the children prepared a small show; poor little ones did not understand why in their language they are singing "muraho, muraho  umuzungu mamma" (goodbye, goodbye white mom )IMG_5479. The next morning, leaving for the airport was very sad: the children understood that there would no be me, we will not be singing songs, will not play football and basketball together, will not be preparing English lessons.

IMG_5387 (Edited)They were too proud because best prepared English lessons in their classes. I left recorded songs in the USB port, but I do not know whether the nuns will have the wish, time, or will have the computer that children did not forget what they learned. During my flight at home, thoughts didn't let me. The kids in the Youth Garden have everything: have where to live, have the opportunity to go to school, are not hungry.IMG_4898 When you see, how many African children living in families, do not have access to education, are plundering in the streets hungry and dirty, – think that those children living in the welfare homes of Padre have everything, except only- parental love and warmth of home. And you see- Padre does such  a holy job.

isevqazkrrb5ahkrf2yg_thumb_6260-e1504690712975 At the age of 18, they have to leave the Youth Garden. Who are good at learning- for those are creating conditions for further studies. Others, practically able to finish only four classes. Such children are learning the crafts (in the Garden Padre has established a craft school). Part of young people, who graduated craft school, Padre gives  work into the farm. For the gifted ones are created conditions to seek further learning. From these grow doctors, lawyers, teachers. Some priests studied in Italy, France. After studies they to work in Africa. Padre's followers work in Kenya, Burundi, Uganda and of course, Rwanda.

IMG_4869 IMG_4912We, several volunteers together with Padre, visited his former ward now a priest in Uganda.


img_8355Leaving the Youth Garden young people signs a "Code of Honor." There is the promise to dedicate themselves to their profession, seek creative, be honorable and support the Garden and needy. After returning from my volunteering  crazy questions, I have got: what I wanted to prove working for African children (while I was going there I had no idea what kind of work I'll do there), why not to go to some exotic country for rest instead … But I saw a lot of foreign countries and it not the miracle to me. Let me finish my essay by words of B. Shaw: "I want to use as much as possible themselves till death. The harder I work, the more I live. I am happy with my life as it is now." I have a dream that each one of us on any day, in any place would find opportunities to work for good and create hope. Now I know, If I could make it there, I could make it anywhere.


Leonarda Sarakauskiene :info@sarakauskiene.lt

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