It's A Dramatic Story
A group of prominent Lithuanian church and public persons (bishop J.Tunaitis, bishop J. Boruta, priest V.Aliulis and others) in the autumn of 1991 gathered to the Steering Group to establish Relief organisation of the Order of Malta in Lithuania. Their goal was to create a Catholic help organization with the motto of the Order of Malta – “Faith protection and help for the needy”.
Relief organisation of the Order of Malta (Maltos ordino pagalbos tarnyba) was established in October 10, 1991. Baron Albrecht von Bioselager, the Grand Hospitaller of Order of Malta and Johannes von Heereman, the Secretary General of Auxiliary Service of the Order of Malta in Germany (Malteser – Hilfsdienst) took part there.
Bishop Juozas Tunaitis became the first president of MOPT, priest Aušvydas Belickas – the Secretary General.
THE FIRST SOCIAL ASSISTANCE PROJECTS
The first MOPT groups were set up at the end of 1991. In collaboration with the Church they were struggling to gather energetic, respected and socially active people, able responsibly carry out the support projects, and work the difficult social work as voluntaries. The first MOPT projects were related with the development of social canteens and aid with used clothes for needies.
The first MOPT social canteen (former “Žeimena”, Bazilijonų str.) was opened in November 20, 1992. 373 poor people had daily meals there. Next year such canteens were opened in other Lithuanian cities and so the social student feeding at schools began.
“MEALS ON WHEELS”
After deep interest in people who need help, it turned out that many of them are not only poor, but seriously ill and lay in bed all the day. Poor and lonely people very often are single and depend on random strangers help. MOPT project “Meals on Wheels” was created to help for such people.
The idea of the project was to deliver hot food in special thermos directly at the homes of the beneficiaries. In fact, in this way seriously ill and often lonely people obtained not only food, but continuous care as well.
Project “Meals on Wheels” started in 10 Lithuanian cities in 1993 with the assistance of the German Catholic Foundation “Renovabis” and is currently implemented in 15 cities.
THE DEVELOPMENT OF SOCIAL ASSISTANCE CENTERS AND CHARITY PHARMACIES
MOPT began developing social assistance centers for disadvantaged people in collaboration with the German Maltese organization Malteser – Hilfsdienst” in Lithuanian cities in 1993. Poor people were distributed there with used clothes, shoes; they were provided with the other necessary social assistance as well.
19 such MOPT centers were set up in Lithuanian cities in 1993 – 1996. They annually provided assistance to thousands of people. MOPT charity pharmacies were also established in Vilnius, Ignalina, and Vilkaviškis.
THE PROJECT FOR PATIENTS CARE AT HOME
Soon it became clear that lonely, old, and disabled people most need help, as they have no chance not only to get the income to live, but also to serve themselves. It was decided not only to support those people with clothes, shoes, or feeding at the social canteen, but also to have regular contact with old people through the help of trained volunteers and to look after them constantly.
The project for voluntary patient care at home was launched in 1997 after the European Union’s program “Phare” funding. After training the volunteers, it was launched in five major Lithuanian cities (Vilnius, Kaunas, Panevezys, Kaišiadorys, and Marijampole).
324 volunteers were trained for patients’ care and they took care on 654 ill persons at home. Patients’ care project is currently being carried out in three cities.
MOPT REGIONAL STRUCTURE DEVELOPMENT
The fundamental structure development works were performed in 1996 and MOPT projects were connected to the regional centers. One MOPT coordinating office was set up in each diocese center of Lithuania and it became diocese Maltese meeting, training, and youth programs performing center.
Similar offices were set up in Vilnius and Kaišiadorys in 1994, in Kaunas and Marijampole in 1996, in Panevezys in 1997. MOPT youth center was built in Bukonys.
MOPT social care center was opened in Vilnius in November of 1996. It joined the existing in Lithuanian capital social MOPT services, such as: clothing item relief, pharmacy, and nursing service. MOPT meetings, training, volunteers and youth meeting center was also established there. Vilnius Archdiocese Center and MOPT General Secretariat were located there as well. The Order of Malta Embassy in Lithuania was opened in the same building in November 30, 1996.
The creation of MOPT regional units in Lithuania continued in 1996. The new MOPT groups were established in Akmenė, Visaginas, Alytus and other cities. Currently engaged in social projects MOPT groups operate in 25 cities of Lithuania.
CHILDREN DAY CARE CENTERS
Auxiliary Service of the Order of Malta began to develop children’s social centers in 2005 in order to help children from disadvantaged families. Those families were selected under the recommendations of schools, neighborhoods, social departments, juvenile police inspectors, and churches.
Such MOPT children’ day care centers were settled in Vilnius, Kaunas, and Marijampole in 2006.
MOPT children’ day care centers development in schools began in 2009. There was easier to get the facilities and qualified social teachers for the centers. Currently MOPT has 6 such children’s day care centers at schools.
MOPT began developing young Maltese groups in urban areas in 1993. The goal was to involve young people in social activities in their cities, to teach ideas of help for next. Gradually this movement has grown to a large MOPT youth organization now functioning in 26 cities.
CHARITY INITIATIVE “CHRISTMAS SOUP” (LATER CHANGED TO “MALTIEČIŲ SRIUBA”)
“Christmas Soup” (later called “Maltese soup”) under the initiative of the Order of Malta Ambassador Count Douglas von Saurma, launched charity campaign in 2006. Its goal was to include Lithuanian society into the care of socially neglected, old, sick and poor people. Colorfull events are held in the city centers, the soup fis given for the charity, during the campaign people are asked to support the Maltese social projects for the old people. The final note of the campaign is a big concert on TV with the possibility to donate directly by phone or SMS.
Lithuanian National Army, the Ministry of Education, municipalities and schools became the charitable initiative partners. Thousands of Lithuanian people supported the Maltese initiative by their donations. The events drew public attention to the problem of living alone old people.
During the campaign Young Maltese also organize a contest “Best charity idea”, which aims to turn young people to help for the old people projects. The essence of the competition is to come up with a youthful way for quick collection of donations (by organizing concerts, performances, exhibitions, competitions, doing crafts, etc.) and donate earned funds to the old people’s care. The contest has won a great success. Thousands of young people take part there every autumn.
Since 2006, the campaign “Maltese soup” is held in 20 Lithuanian cities every year before Christmas, and ends by a large concert on television.
PILGRIMAGE TO LOURDES
Since 2007, Maltese started organizing disabled people and pilgrims travel to Lourdes to “Malteser Days” there. During those days, the heads of the Order of Malta come to this French city together with thousands of Maltese with patients from all over the world.
Soon the pilgrimage initiative was supported by the campaign “Put the candle at Lourdes”. The distribution of special candles (which are then transported to Lourdes) in Lithuanian cities with personal prayers for health is the essence of the campaign.
All these campaigns were initiated by Ambassador of the Order of Malta Douglas von Saurma.
All this MOPT activity became possible only thanks to the Maltese volunteers. Social projects, children day care centers, charity campaigns, competitions and pilgrimages are going on only by their efforts.
Coming of hundreds of young people into the organization not only helped many disadvantaged people, however, became a high school for themselves in developing values and attitudes towards life.