Partner – The Order of Malta Relief Organization: Young Maltese
Regions – Ignalina, Klaipėda, Prienai, Raseiniai, Skuodas, Vilnius and Žiežmariai
From the early spring of 2020, quarantine restrictions were implemented in Lithuania. The scarcity of face-to-face communication and associated social isolation had a powerful impact on everybody, particularly the elderly who live alone and lack reliable information on Covid-19, as well as vital emotional support.
In this context, the British Council Lithuania started collaborating with Young Maltese from The Order of Malta Relief Organization and initiated the Bridging Generations project, representing an intergenerational initiative based on Age UK’s (one of the country’s leading charities) community social cohesion projects. Its core goals were to strengthen intergenerational dialogue by developing long-term volunteering opportunities for young people to engage with senior citizens.
Bridging Generations also helped to address concerns in the elderly community regarding the pandemic. The project provided important clarification of the myths and rumours projected on various media platforms about COVID-19, vaccines and other associated issues, while improving their general media literacy. In parallel, this project provided essential reassurance during extended periods of social isolation and offered the elderly living in remote areas a greater sense of belonging.
Telephone counselling required robust preparation, and therefore the young volunteers were trained by experts on information, media literacy and psychological support. Each volunteer was provided with 24 hours of preparatory training and three supportive reflections, during which they had the opportunity to consider their experiences, while sharing challenges and good practice.
Subsequently, seven groups of young volunteers (involving 80 young people in total) from different parts of Lithuania participated in the activities. They offered consultations with elderly persons on relevant topics via telephone, while also assisting the seniors with information technology issues. Not only was counselling provided during these telephone conversations, but also emotional support, ensuring that the senior citizens felt a sense of inclusion in the events unfolding.