Social action and volunteering – noble ways to earn respect from others

Written by a journalist Laima Karaliūtė

Volunteering and social initiative always earn respect. And when such noble initiatives are taken up by the immigrants, it demonstrates that they care about their new country and its people. In addition, they earn trust from the locals, integrate into Lithuanian society easier and find local friends. Lithuanian immigrants who volunteer frankly say that if one wants to become a fully integrated and respected member of the society, they need to do something good for the people of that country. How social involvement and volunteering help people integrate into Lithuanian society, we spoke with the head of Muslim Association “Ahmadija” Ahmed Faraz and Eskedar Maštavičienė, originally from Ethiopia and the resident of Lithuania for over a decade. 

Ahmed Faraz with LR president Gitanas Nausėda.
Photo from a personal archive

One of the striking examples in Lithuania on how one may earn respect and give thanks to the country that gave you a refuge by doing good deeds is the association “Ahmadija”. According to Mr. Faraz, volunteering not only opens up people hearts, but also earns gratitude from the country’s officials. It is the most beautiful way to find a common ground between the immigrants and the locals. 

Lithuania is our home and thus everyone should be taking good care of it

For four years now the association “Ahmadija” heads the initiative of cleaning up the Vilnius Cathedral Square after the New Year’s celebrations. 

On New Year’s Eve, the capital’s Cathedral Square becomes a place where huge crowds of people gather to celebrate the upcoming New Year. Once the celebration (festivities there) is over, and people return to their homes, the main city square looks trashed. The square is covered with empty firework shells, broken champagne bottles, and confetti. Now it has become a tradition that volunteers, gathered together by the association “Ahmadija”, start the clean-up process early in the morning. According to Mr. Faraz, the goal of this project is to not only encourage volunteering, but also to clean the city itself, boosting societal wellbeing and order. “With this project we seek peace, social harmony, and growth of mutual respect. We want to show that regardless of where we come from, Vilnius is our home now, and everyone should keep their home clean”, says the author of the initiative. Mr. Faraz is glad to see that year by year the number of volunteers is growing. There were just seven volunteers on the first year of the initiative, but now it is hard to count them all. Lithuanians are also joining our Muslim community. A common goal unites people with different backgrounds and religions. 

Good Deeds build trust among different cultures

Besides the New Year’s celebration clean-up, “Ahmadija” is involved in many other social initiatives. One of them is providing support for poor or otherwise adversely affected Lithuanian families. The Muslim community together with the Lithuanian municipalities identify the families in need of most help and provide them with food, personal hygiene items and other aid. Mr. Faraz says that an integration into a society can be called a success when the new arrivals earn their place here by doing good deeds, which slowly changes the stereotypes and builds trust among people of different origins and religions in Lithuania. 

“By doing good deeds we also seek to show that Islam is a religion of peace”, – says Mr. Faraz.

„Ahmadija“ also organizes blood drives, visits children’s homes, cooks and arranges food drives for the needy. 

If you‘re looking for ways to integrate into the Lithuanian society, become a volunteer for “Ahmadija”. Become a member by joining the Facebook Group called “Asociacija Ahmadija Lietuva. 

Eskedar Maštavičienė. Photo from a personal archive

A refugee gets nominated for “Superwoman 2020”

A refugee from Ethiopia Eskedar admits – “at first, I felt a stranger in a strange land. People gave me looks because of my appearance, dress style, cultural differences. I didn’t know the language either. Today Eskedar not only knows Lithuanian, but also is loved and respected. What’s more, this year she was nominated for a “Superwoman” title by the most popular Lithuanian web portal “Delfi”. How did she do it?

“I think the Lithuanians started to like me when I got involved in social initiatives. People saw that I was not asking for money, but instead wanted to do something good for your society”, – says Ethiopian.

The charity started by Eskedar got a huge societal support 

Eskedar has been running the charity “Donate a dress” for seven years now. The goal of this charity is to help underprivileged women to have that special dress during the holiday season. 

The initiative received strong support from the local women. The dresses were donated by women of different backgrounds. 

Since the beginning of the charity, over a hundred dresses have been donated. 

A cup of coffee brings people together 

This year Eskedar had another great idea for an initiative – to treat people with home-made Ethiopian coffee. 

“There is a rehabilitation center in the Lithuanian seaside town for people of various ages with disabilities. There I saw lots of brave individuals with disabilities who live normal lives, as well as families who raise children with disabilities. My children got a chance to make friends with those children and my kids didn’t even ask why they were in chairs with wheels or something like that, they didn’t have any questions, because it was clear that it was alright. We went there with all of my ceremonial coffee equipment, as we wanted to have the ceremony by the sea. We went to the beach with more cups to be able to treat others, it was great”, – says the immigrant.

After my return from the seaside I learned that Vilnius had opened up an “Open Beach”. And I thought to myself, why not treat people there to my coffee? I made about 150 cups of coffee and gave them away. In the future I plan to find more venues where I could offer my coffee to the people there. Sometimes people ask – coffee for free? Nothing is free… But there is! Because it’s a great feeling to be able to treat people. In my home country Ethiopia, the coffee ceremony takes place three times a day and lasts at least an hour or hour and a half. A cup of coffee brings people together regardless of where they come from and what religion they practice, – smiles Eskedar.