In Lithuania, there are 21,7% more migrants from the Third World countries this year than before. Seeing the potential migrants’ problems integrating into Lithuanian society, LCC International University students, who have come to study here by Middle East Scholars program, volunteer as interpreters and psychologist assistants for the youth from the Third World countries through Red Cross and Caritas.
According to the Migrations department of the Lithuanian Republic, during the year 2020, Lithuania received 21,7% more migrants from Third World countries. On January 1st of 2021, there were almost 80 thousand Third World citizens living in Lithuania. Due to the growing numbers of such migrants, the need for accommodation, protection, permits to stay is growing together with the overall need for integration into Lithuanian society.
Because of the large growing refugee numbers, it revealed another relevant issue. The migrations department is in high demand of interpreters from Kurdish and Arabic languages. Seeing such and other similar problems of migrants integrating into the society, LCC International University, an institution projecting North American style education with liberal arts philosophy, implements a program for Third World country citizens. LCC students volunteer as interpreters and psychologist assistants to provide help at the refugee centers and other institutions.
Introductory integration for Third World country citizens during this program.
Since 2016, the university is offering Middle East Scholars scholarships, which provide an opportunity for talented youth from war-affected countries, such as Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq, to continue pursuing their career in BA and MA programs. In 2018 this program has been sponsored by the Foreign Affairs Ministry of the Lithuanian government. At the moment, LCC has 16 students from Afghanistan, 35 students from Iraq, and 2 students from Syria studying here. Candidate selection gets completed by consulting UNHCR and other humanitarian organizations.
UN refugee agency included this program in Complementary Education Pathways for Refugees. This network provides protection and decision-making in Third World countries by using Higher education scholarships. Besides, the UN refugee agency organizes events for European and Asian markets. In this event, the UN refugee agency mentioned the Middle East Scholars program several times. Not only that but in Brussels, this program has been presented as an exemplary initiative.
According to Henrik M. Nordentolf, UN Refugee Agency representative for Nordic and Baltic countries, more than 82 million people in the whole world must leave their home countries. Most of them live in developing countries, so there is a need for more legal ways to help people who ran away from war and persecution. Also, there is a need for safer alternatives to get into peaceful countries that are not affected by the turmoil.
“Such educational tools as the program that LCC International University offers are great initiatives, allowing young refugees to safely continue their education and develop their skills. Besides, the student participants of this program who are voluntarily helping others is a joyful and inspiring example,” comments H. M. Nordentoft. He continues by saying that “UN Refugee Agency expects other universities to follow a good example of LCC International University, and that they would consider establishing similar programs.” LCC International University collaborates with other Lithuanian universities to provide opportunities for such students to continue their education in other institutions. For example, several recent graduates from Iraq and Syria are continuing their studies at Vilnius University and the Lithuanian University of Health Sciences.
Help from the students: Volunteering at the Red Cross and Caritas
Besides the Middle East Scholars program, LCC International University actively encourages students, especially the ones who came to study here with the Middle East Scholars program, to work as volunteers in integrating Third World country citizens into Lithuanian society.
Volunteering provides an opportunity for the students not only to contribute to the local initiatives and create connections but also allows them to find their vocation in the humanitarian aid field. Around 20 students have volunteered at the Lithuania Red Cross. Seven of them have helped organize Red Cross events. 2 of them volunteered to sort out and take the warm clothes to the refugee centers. 4 students worked at the vaccination centers. Also, one LCC student now works as an EMT and belongs to the Preparation for emergencies team at the Red Cross.
A Yazidi student Hamo also helps out Red Cross at Pabradė, where he works with the youth of similar positions. According to the student, the international values that he perceived were the reason why he got encouraged to help refugees.
“From 2014 to 2018 it was Red Cross that helped me back in Iraq when my family and I were running from ISIS gang and ended up in a refugee camp. Then I did not have a place to stay, so volunteering was a way for me to return the help I previously received. Although it was rather difficult to volunteer, at the same time, it was a valuable and fulfilling experience. By helping others, we managed to get significant results.”
Another LCC student, now an alumna, Rita from Iraq, is working at Lithuania Caritas as a psychologist assistant. She provides therapy services and consults social workers about the problems that appear while working with refugees. The student chose this activity to ease the pain of those who suffer by listening and helping them to cope with the psychological issues.
“The experience that I gained while working in this organization is truly significant to me. I managed to see how therapy works and helps to ease the pain people suffer from. While working with the refugees and the international students, I noticed that there is one thing they have in common – loneliness,” says Rita. “When they come to the psychologist or social worker to talk, they receive the empathy and support, which makes them not feel alone as they manage to find hope not to give up.”
Volunteering of the students unites foreign and Lithuanian communities
Lithuania Red Cross, Director at Klaipėda department, Alina Birbalaitė admits that volunteering and helping others, who have been experiencing life challenges, is useful both for foreign students and refugees.
“I believe that volunteering is not just a useful experience for foreign students, but also an example for the whole community that the students, who come from abroad, want to create welfare in Lithuania. Those students are kind, and they wish to make their free time valuable,” Alina shares. “Through volunteering, the students get a chance to meet the locals, better understand their culture, and create new connections.”
LCC International University plans to expand the Middle East Scholars program and create a larger network of similar collaborations. They wish to continue creating opportunities for the youth from the Third World countries to receive appropriate conditions to establish themselves and start their lives in Lithuania. In November, the Afghani university students are planning a trip to Raseiniai, where Afghani citizens live. They will present Lithuanian history, culture, and the Middle East Scholars program.
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