I am 33 years old. As I remember my parents and brothers were always drunk. Sometimes my brother would hit me just for desiring to wash my clothes or look for something to eat. The home was always messy; sometimes parents just locked me in the room and went out to town. In my family, I felt rejected. Sadly, when I was still young my father hanged himself and my mother died during Christmas Eve. I was constantly crying and scared to stay with my brothers. But then my neighbour took me home. I called her aunt and she took care of me and loved me. I was so happy as I felt safe with her.
I remember the first time my aunt brought me to L'arche and I met Gedas (Community leader) and many more people who today are my friends and family. Unfortunately, my aunt got ill and she refused to take me into the daily activities in L'arche. She began to look for a retirement home for me to live permanently. I felt heartbroken and lonely most of the people where I started to live were old and ill and no one wanted to be friends or even talk with me. After few weeks Gedas came to visit me and I do not know how but after a few weeks he asked me if I want to live in Kaunas L'arche? I said yes, and now I am happy and live in the community.
I felt so scared and heart-broken for her while she told of her experiences. I mean I couldn’t say anything or I didn’t know from where to start to comfort her, but she just said: “Everything is okay! I love my new family…”
Every day from 9 am until 5 pm people with intellectual disabilities, volunteers and social workers come to our workshops to spend a day together and learn how to grow vegetables, herbs, produce candles, jewellery, pottery and other handicrafts. During my first visit to the community, I personally felt that they are all bound by harmony, friendship and understanding. As I spoke with Gedas he told me that Edita was the main reason for starting a new chapter of Kaunas L'arche living home. Because within every year, the community is still growing but faces new challenges and difficulties. One of the worst obstacles is unfortunately time. The core members of the community have guardians, usually in their senior year, who cannot take care of the community members any more. This raised the dilemma, where should they live? The only solution in Lithuania, for now, is to live in boarding-houses or retirement homes. But those choices are not representing the needs of people with intellectual disabilities comfortably as they strive for friendship, responsibilities and to grow up and become adults.
Even without having funding Kaunas L’Arche community decided from October in 2018 to create a living home for people with intellectual disabilities. One of the temporary solutions was to start a new project called “living home” in Kaunas L'Arche workshop building. The community found assistants who were willing to live together with Edita and give her active social life with dignity and respect.
Unfortunately, in November of 2019 “living home” need to move out from the workshop building because of safety, sanitary reasons and lack of living spaces. Besides, according to the de-institutionalization process in Lithuania, people with intellectual disabilities cannot live in the same house where they go to daily activities.
To keep their “living home” open, as they currently have 3 residents with intellectual disability and 2 assistants the Kaunas L’arche needs to get a separate home from the social workshop as soon as possible! Their goal is to raise 125 000 SEK before November 2019 that Kaunas L'arche “living home” could find a family-type living space where people with intellectual disabilities can have dignity and peaceful community life.
Who I am? I am a Lithuanian woman who moved to Sweden when she was 15 years old to study. 26 years later I am still living in Sweden with a husband and two beautiful children. I have had a good life and felt that I wanted to give it back, to help others. During all this time I never forgot my home-country Lithuania and I got to know Kaunas L'arche community from my childhood friend Gedas. He started this community to give people with intellectual disability a place to meet, learn new things, use their creativity and for some of them even a place to live. So please help me to help them! Your donations will help to generate a healthier, fairer and happier home for people with intellectual disabilities! Thank you in advance for your contribution!
Diana Venskyte Landborg
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