Savanorė Katya iš Ukrainos pasakoja savo istoriją apie EST projektą Kauno lauko darželyje: “Mano pagrindinis darbas – padėti auklėtojams rūpinantis vaikais. Skamba ne taip ir sudėtingai… tačiau taip nėra, kai visi kalbame skirtingomis kalbomis.”
I started my EVS project in September 2017. Before arriving here I had an image in of Lithuania being a fairy tale country with all those woods and castles, and folk stories. Then I discovered I’d be living in a soviet block house… And then I saw the cosily beautiful Kaunas old town, the world returned to its place.
Now, after 5 months I have my life figured out here — I like my flatmates and living in the shared flat, kindergarten, opportunity to meet other volunteers, practice languages, learn, travel.
And now I also know that Lithuania combines the elements of different eras. A mix like historical place + a soviet touch + street art is completely normal here. And people from different generations cope to live in it. That’s amazing, so interesting and that’s part of the experience.
But my main experience is surely the work with children.
My kindergarten is in the oak park close to the city center. There, kids spend the most of the time outside; there is only an indoors sleeping house and a wooden summer house for games and meals.
At firstly I was dazzled by how autonomous kids are — they know the everyday routine, what they want to do or how to wash their hands or to get ready for sleeping. It looked like they feel free there.
They also have their freedom in choosing activities or places for playing. Adults — teachers — rather follow the kids and are there to help, suggest an activity or resolve conflicts.
Such system is fascinating for me. It is the completely the opposite of what I am used to have in my country — education where students are subordinate to teachers and where following the rules is essential.
Here rules are important as well, but they concern only the daily schedule (if it is lunch time, everyone is eating it) or for using some tool (e.g. a saw can be used only together with a teacher). When we comment or intervene into kids behavior, like tell them not to push others or tell to share, it is not about rules, but rather explaining life, cooperation, emotions to them. Because everything we do there serves the only goal — help those little people grow up in to wholesome persons.
As the volunteer in the kindergarten I am assisting the teachers in all the tasks they have with children. Sounds not that difficult … if only you speak the same language. I underestimated that fact in the beginning, and it was a huge educational moment for all — kids wondering why an adult cannot communicate with them, and me actually being the adult in that position looking for ways out. So from the first day I realized how much I need Lithuanian, and children really help in learning it. Now, when we are able to understand each other, and I can explain games to them, listen to their stories and be part of what is going on.
Being with kids every day opened a whole new world for me, so if we talk about the learning points — they are plenty. With them it is more important how you do it, than how amazing is what you do; how you speak than how amazing is what you are saying; important to be relaxed, and confident, and honest; and be prepared to hear the truth (a tough one sometimes).
Sounds very vague, but that’s how it is for me, inner personal lessons are harder to learn than the outer ones. Of course, now I know how to maintain facilities for a kindergarten like this, what kind of team is needed, etc. Also, the activities we do for the kids are mind blowing — we make fire, cook, ride bikes, do yoga, make expeditions to the park, visit museums, dress in costumes, celebrate, build, make snow sculptures and much more — each day brings a new idea.
Before coming to Lithuania, my main concern about the project was the weather, that’s the first what comes to peoples mind when they hear “outdoor kindergarten”. And it turned to be the least of the challenges — good clothes and that’s it.
Overall, I would say, this project is a deep dive into the alternative education. So far I also had a chance to visit Kolping kindergarten, a Waldorf school and plan on visiting another outdoor kindergarten. I am glad I have 5 more months to fill with new discoveries, and I hope then I’ll put all the pieces together.