Let’s admit it – the best way to get to know a new city is with the help of a local. After all, if you’re staying for a longer period of time, you not only need to find a place to live – you also need to find a job, a kindergarten or school for your children, and a doctor as well. So the help of a local becomes invaluable. If you’re a Ukrainian who has come to the capital, you can meet your local friend in the BeFriend Vilnius mentoring programme – all you have to do is register and wait to be introduced to a volunteer. Your mentor will answer all your questions and help you with any problems that might come up.
This is a mentoring initiative for Ukrainians who are staying in Vilnius and need help. There are a lot of questions when you come to a new country: how to navigate the public transport system, how to register with a doctor, where to look for work. So the aim of the project is to provide all the answers and share practical advice that will help Ukrainians not only integrate more quickly into local life, but also build friendly and respectful relationships with the local community.
The principle of this programme is simple – Ukrainians and locals who would like to become mentors fill out a registration form, and then the Ukrainian is assigned a local mentor based on the answers and the newcomer’s priorities. The mentor and mentee receive each other’s contact details and agree to call each other or meet up at a time that is convenient for both of them.
We suggest meeting and interacting at least twice a month, or more often if possible. The mentor and the mentee decide on the details of the meeting themselves, although choosing a time between 8 am and 8 pm on any day of the week is recommended. The mentor and the mentee should both show initiative, make efforts to be patient and curious, be able to develop a relationship, and agree on a mutually suitable meeting time.
The organisers recommend meeting at a public place, such as International House Vilnius (Konstitucijos pr. 3), unless an alternative meeting place has been agreed in advance. After the meeting, a meeting evaluation form will be sent to both parties by e-mail. Completing the form is not mandatory, but we recommend taking the time to fill it out, as this helps us to understand people’s expectations.
Mentors do not need any professional skills or special education. The main thing is for volunteers to understand the sensitive nature of these meetings, and to be aware that meetings with people who have fled the atrocities of war can be emotionally difficult and involve complex topics. Mentors are therefore committed to remaining calm and maintaining a constructive meeting format.
Mentors agree to receive an invitation and join a Facebook group created specifically for the project to share relevant information. They also agree to volunteer their time for the project (each meeting should last at least two hours), even though no compensation for this is involved. They also do not expect any benefit from the people they are mentoring.
Mentors have the right to terminate their participation in the project at any time by notifying the organisers in writing at least three days before the next scheduled meeting with the mentee.
Productive meetings with a mentor at least twice a month, or more often if possible. While mentors may know how to help, the issues that are discussed during the meeting will depend on what you want to talk about. We suggest thinking through your questions in advance and sharing them with your mentor before the meeting so that he or she can be better prepared.
IMPORTANT TO NOTE: Currently, this programme is only offered to Ukrainians and nationals of other countries who were forced to flee Ukraine because of war, but we are looking to expand it so it‘s available to all.
All project participants must be at least 18 years old. Anyone younger must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian. The organizers do not provide financial assistance to mentors or mentees.
If a mentee moves to a place outside the city of Vilnius during the programme, his or her participation in the project will automatically be terminated. In this case, the mentoring can be continued, but only with the mentor’s consent. However, mentoring continued like this is treated as independent and takes place outside of the project. Mentors whose mentees move have the right to discontinue mentoring, but can also ask the organisers to assign them a new mentee if they would like. Both parties must inform the organisers in writing of any changes in the mentoring project.
“I’m very lucky to be the first “BeFriend Vilnius” mentor who was matched with my mentee soon after the launch of the programme and I became very excited to meet my mentee Iryna. When I contacted her, she was still on her way to Lithuania and I started to worry if I would be able to provide sufficient help this way and able to meet her needs and expectations. However, when our communication started, I quickly sensed what an intelligent and kind person Iryna is. When we finally met in person for the first time, she said that the only support she really needs is to have someone to walk and talk with from time to time. This really reassured me and gave me great confidence – thank you Iryna for being so positively simple. Becoming a "BeFriend Vilnius" mentor exceeded my expectations - I've met a great person who I am now very happy to call my friend.”Kristina Lieponė I Mentor
“I was matched with my „BeFriend Vilnius“mentor Kristina while I was still on my way to Lithuania and we got in touch straight away. Kristina provided me with a lot of needed support and advice and once I reached Vilnius, she helped me with starting my new life here – I am very grateful to her. I was also very lucky to meet Gintarė, one of the „BeFriend Vilnius“co-founders, at one of the „Vilniushyvanka“ events and we established a warm connection from the first meet-up as well. They are both amazing people with big kind hearts, I feel so lucky to have found them!”Iryna Kutova I Mentee
A new friendship between Irina and Jovita‘s families has been going on for more than a month since they first met each other on the first week of Irina’s arrival in Lithuania. Irina came from Kherson with her 8-year-old daughter, who has been attending school in Vilnius for some time now. Jovita's son Bernardas is 11 and he is the one to decide where the families will meet and what activities they will be doing. According to Irina, they never meet in the same place, they always discover new places in Vilnius. Irina found out about the programme at the Registration Center for Ukrainians. Irina and Jovita communicate in Russian, but the children do not speak Russian, so they communicate either in English or signs.
“Being a mentor at BeFriend Vilnius mentorship program makes my time meaningful and let’s me feel that my work, contacts and even small gestures can help other. During thus program I have the opportunity to get to know Ukrainian culture, learn Ukrainian language and improve my Russian language skills."Rūta Petrylaitė I Mentor
“I sincerely thank you for your help. You are just wonderful! Coming from another country and from another city, you find yourself in a completely unusual location and amongst completely different people. Everything is unfamiliar and you, like Alice in Wonderland, walk and watch. Sincere thanks to my mentor Rūta and her friend. Were it not for them, it would be incredibly difficult to arrange a huge number of documents and top-priority issues. It's a matter of filling out documents, applying for grants or filling out forms, applying even for payments and payment cards. I am sincerely grateful for the help with some really important issues, I would not have understood them myself.”Anastasija Kostenko I Mentee
“BeFriend Vilnius” programme has given me an opportunity to try out mentorship, which in this specific case has gone outside the usual mentorship boundaries. The situation which my mentee Eteri is currently in is so emotionally sensitive that just rational mentorship is not enough, she also needs emotional support. I invite everyone to sign up for this programme in order to pass on their knowledge, experience and volunteer their time for the common humane goal – to support the nation of Ukraine. Jurga Čižikaitė I Mentor