Discovered volunteering after an invitation from a friend
“I got my first taste of volunteering 12 years ago, as a university freshman. I was invited to go by a fellow student and friend. We joined a voluntary tutoring programme called ‘Ne imti, bet duoti’ – a programme that’s still going strong. We used to go to an orphanage, where we helped kids study and do their homework. With the older kids, we talked about the importance of education, potential professions, study areas and how higher education works,’ Eglė Šileikytė remembers, laughing about the fact that she did not know much about the academic world at the time herself.
When her studies grew more intense, Eglė had to stop volunteering, but she always knew that she wanted to come back to it: ‘All that time, I felt that I wanted to help, but at the very beginning of my volunteer work, I didn’t quite know how to do it, and my friend’s invitation to try volunteering together gave me a great start – I discovered that I really liked doing it.’ A little later, also during her studies, Eglė joined an initiative (still operating today) of a social support centre that provided integrated home assistance: volunteers accompanied social and care workers to the homes of the elderly and the disabled and helped them tidy, cook, shop for groceries and simply visit and talk to those in their care.
Offered the opportunity to volunteer at Maisto Bankas to colleagues
After completing her studies in chemistry, Eglė worked in her field and lived abroad for a while. Five years ago, she returned to Lithuania and began working at Danske Bank Lithuania as a financial crime prevention analyst. At the organisation, Eglė not only got to apply her analytical skills, but as her workday took on a clear structure and she now had more free time, she was also able to return to volunteer work. ‘At the time, I chose from the best-known charity organisations in the country. I decided to try volunteering at Maisto Bankas, and that’s where I stayed. I began working in the warehouse, sorting food, then I began distributing food packages as part of a programme funded by the Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived,’ Eglė recalls.
Food packages from this programme are distributed once every two months, but sometimes the process drags out, so Eglė volunteers at Maisto Bankas a little more frequently than that. ‘I show up whenever I'm needed and however I can. One time, we arrived at Maisto Bankas with an entire team. Last year I helped organise a volunteer day and suggested my colleagues volunteer at an organisation I was familiar with,’ Eglė recounts. In her own words, the day turned out to be exceptional: ‘We were with our colleagues, not in the office as usual, doing something new together. We had the opportunity to see each other in a different environment, we had a good time, we were very relaxed, but we shared a common goal – helping others.’
Think about what you would find meaningful and valuable and simply go ahead and try. What you don’t know can be scary at first.
Volunteering in the company of friends, family members or colleagues really encourages people to become volunteers – Eglė is convinced of this. To those who would like to start volunteering but have not yet found it in them to make that first step, Eglė recommends identifying an organisation that does something you find meaningful, the goals of which are important to you personally and where you can apply your personal or professional skills: ‘Think about what you would find meaningful and valuable and simply go ahead and try. What you don’t know can be scary at first.’
Volunteer of the Year inspired by the examples set by volunteering colleagues
Something that might encourage employees of Danske Bank Lithuania to get involved with volunteer work is the opportunity offered by their employer from March of last year to dedicate not one but three paid working days to volunteering. ‘This is a great stimulus to try something new, especially for those who shy away from this kind of thing or don’t know where to start, what organisations exist or where they can volunteer. When your employer encourages you, when your colleagues and especially your supervisors help you out, this is really motivating,’ says Eglė. Already last year, she used all three of her paid volunteer time-off days – previously, she used to volunteer on her own vacation time. ‘It’s a real pleasure for me that I can help someone. There is a lot of personal growth too when you encounter different people and different situations. Volunteering develops your awareness, widens your horizons and you grow more compassionate,’ Eglė explains.
Though the award was very unexpected – I’m very inspired myself by the examples set by colleagues who haven’t even been nominated – I’m happy to be recognised for what I like to do, for an additional activity that is important to me
For her volunteer work at Maisto Bankas, a Ukrainian registration centre and other organisations last year, Eglė was voted the Volunteer of the Year at Danske Bank Lithuania. ‘Though the award was very unexpected – I’m very inspired myself by the examples set by colleagues who haven’t even been nominated – I’m happy to be recognised for what I like to do, for an additional activity that is important to me,’ Eglė remarked, adding that the award has encouraged her to do even more, ‘Just last year I began to take an interest in doing something new. As a volunteer, I want to communicate more directly with the people I am trying to help. I have ideas about how I could make this come true and I'm waiting for an informational type of event at a certain organisation.’
Learning a language so that those in need feel less isolated
At the beginning of last year, in order to be able to communicate with those in need and help them better, Eglė began teaching herself Russian. ‘Working at Maisto Bankas, I realised that I like it best when I can have direct contact with the ones I help, communicate with them and build a relationship. It is because of my volunteer work at this organisation that I began to learn Russian – sometimes the people who come in don’t even speak Lithuanian, and I felt I couldn’t fully do my duty and help them or answer their questions. I kept having to ask for help from other volunteers,’ Eglė Šileikytė says.
She felt the need for a better knowledge of Russian once again, when Russia invaded Ukraine, and she decided to volunteer at a Ukrainian registration centre. ‘Niekieno Vaikai, an organisation that was organising all kinds of activities for Ukrainian children declared that there was no need to know Russian to do the work. But while I was there, I felt that I couldn’t build a relationship with the kids without knowing the language.’ Though she no longer volunteers at the organisation, Eglė did not stop studying Russian and is even considering finding herself a teacher this year. As more Ukrainians come to live in Lithuania and as she continues to volunteer at Maisto Bankas and other organisations, Eglė is certain that a knowledge of Russian will come in handy: ‘When you can actually talk to the people who are asking for help – people who are facing real difficulties, elderly people, lonely people, refugees, i.e., vulnerable people – they see your sincere desire to help and feel more involved; that means there’s less exclusion in society.’