Lithuania

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Contents

Status: Presently Inactive
Program dates: 1992-2002
Volunteers Served: 219

Program Development

With the advent of independence in 1991 Lithuania committed itself to re-establishing a democratic society, re-entering competitive world markets, and opening the doors of modern science, technology, and commerce to its citizens. Policy reforms were underway to privatize state enterprises and farms and to safeguard property rights. To support these goals, the Government of Lithuania needed to encourage the development of small enterprises, especially in rural areas that were bound to be the hardest-hit by unemployment during the restructuring process. It also realized that nationwide fluency in English was essential for Lithuanians to take full advantage of their newly expanded economic and social opportunities.

The Peace Corps responded to these expressed needs and put into place two projects, Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) and Small Enterprise Development (SED). The nature of the Peace Corps projects remained stable for the 10-year period, but elements of the two projects were modified to reflect the changing needs and opportunities presented by the rapidly evolving Lithuanian economic and social environment.

For example, the SED project got off to a difficult start. Initially the Ministry of the Economy planned to establish a series of small business centers for local governments. However, there was a change in policy in 1992, and the Volunteers found themselves not attached to a local agency, because they did not exist. The five SED Volunteers who came to Lithuania in 1992 went to their assigned sites but were "adopted" by various new associations and institutes that were neither established nor focused. Volunteers were basically on their own to identify target beneficiaries, market their skills and establish routines to provide the mandated skill transfer. Their experience and insights into the needs of the local communities helped the Ministry develop its eventual program of support through its newly established Entrepreneurship Division. The Peace Corps program was then aligned with this new Division starting in 1993.

The first TEFL and SED Volunteers arrived to begin training in July 1992. By 1995 the demand for Business English at all levels was strong. The Peace Corps added this element to its TEFL project, combining some of the talents of both SED and TEFL Volunteers in the training and assignment of the Volunteers recruited to implement this new Business English focus.

With the collapse of the Soviet Union, certain State social services were withdrawn. To replace the "social safety net," elements of civil society, absent during Soviet times, reappeared. Volunteerism, which was largely coerced service during Soviet rule, was dormant. Yet necessity dictated that private Lithuanian citizens organize themselves to fill the gaps left by the withdrawal of an all-pervasive government.

Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO) struggled into existence. They had much to overcome, not the least of which was the negative image of volunteerism left over from Soviet times. There was also profound need for financial assistance for these organizations to operate their programs. Financial assistance was made available by such organizations as the SOROS Open Society Fund, the Baltic American Partnership Fund, the United States Agency for International Development, and the EU PHARE program, among others. Yet having the funds available and actually getting the funds into the NGO's hands were two different matters. Lithuanians generally did not have experience managing organizations, designing projects, writing grant proposals and accounting for expenditures. The Peace Corps modified its SED project in 1997 to include Volunteers assigned to work with the NGO community to help overcome these weaknesses. Many of the business management skills Volunteers were transferring to private entrepreneurs were valid for NGO managers as well.

Sector Assignment Beg. Yr End. Yr
Business Business Advising 1992 1995
Business Development 1994 2000
NGO Advising 1997 2000
Education English Teacher 1992 2000
English Teacher Trainer 1992 2000

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Major Accomplishments

Peace Corps Volunteers' activities centered on meeting the need for mid-level technical assistance, the skills transfer between colleagues, and their teaching activities. In addition, Volunteers helped create institutions such as Business Centers, Teacher Resource Centers, and school libraries. They wrote textbooks, curricula, compendia of funding sources, business plan formats and in general created a body of work that is physical and visible.

English Education

The initial goal for TEFL was to teach English to 9,900 students, 495 teachers, and 660 adults. When the final count was done, it showed that in 10 years Volunteers taught English to 20,627 students from Forms 2-12, 1,567 teachers, and 6,923 adult learners. In total, 206 educational institutions benefited from Volunteer- produced resources, books and additional materials created or acquired for daily use.

The active learning techniques initiated or created by Volunteers included development of critical thinking through debate, competition in national English Olympiads, use of English-only in the classroom, English drama, student English newspapers, public speaking clubs, English clubs, and the integration of social issues into lesson plans.

Volunteers increased available English Language resources in their schools by developing lesson plans, curriculum, supplemental teaching materials, tests and examinations, recorded tapes, games and puzzles. Other resources that were obtained through donations or school purchases with Volunteers' assistance include English-English dictionaries, readers, practice grammars, song books, magazines and newspapers that have been contributed to classrooms, school libraries and teacher resource centers.

Teaching materials were not widely accessible at the local level. Therefore, a team of 12 Volunteers and 13 Lithuanian counterparts, working with the Ministry of Education and Science, wrote Essential English, consisting of a teacher's book, student's workbook, and a cassette to prepare students for the 12th form exam. This was published in 1997 and is widely used in Lithuanian schools. It was a useful tool in the effort to standardize the national 12th form English exam.

Another updated Volunteer-produced resource designed for student preparation for the Final English exam was the book A Prep Course for the 12th Form English Exam corresponding to the national curriculum in 2000. It provided teachers with a wealth and diversity of original and non-original (fully referenced) activities and materials in the form of 80 lesson plans addressing the 14 English examination topics. The books were distributed to Volunteers and their counterparts free of charge.

In order to meet the need for Business English materials in the country, three Business English Volunteers developed a Teacher's Book, a Textbook and a Supplement Textbook on teaching Business English, Where There Is No Textbook, published in 1996, which has been widely used in secondary and tertiary level schools and in universities. In addition, Volunteers who taught Business English in colleges and universities have prepared and left with their schools a variety of Business English teaching curricula, lesson plans and classroom materials depending on the schools' specialization: office and business administration, law, medical English, hotel, tourism and sports management, computer automation, and graphic design.

By acquiring Peace Corps Small Project Assistance, EBDP, and other international and local funds, Education Volunteers have opened Language Resource Centers in Kaunas, Panevezys, Jurbarkas and Alytus that are accessible to not only students and teachers but other community members as well. Resource Centers possess books, magazines, newspapers, file cabinets filled with lesson ideas, plans and curricula, access to Internet, audio-visual equipment, VCRs and other materials.

Small Enterprise Development

For the SED project, the initial goal was to reach 11,700 entrepreneurs. In fact, the Peace Corps SED/NGO project assisted 10,599 entrepreneurs gain skills in basic business practices, helped 768 people in business centers, NGOs and Regional Governments build their organizational capacity and trained 3,074 students and 69 teachers in business-related subjects. The long-term goals of the SED/NGO Project were achieved by a wide range of Volunteer and community-initiated activities and projects.

SED/NGO Volunteers were assigned to a variety of business centers and to NGOs including the Volunteer Center in Vilnius. Business Advisors spent a majority of their time consulting with individual entrepreneurs on basic business practices. They also organized and taught courses on business-related themes, promoted networking among regional organizations and businesses, and disseminated information through regular radio shows and newspaper articles.

A very successful project initiated by two Volunteers in 1994, and continued by their successors later in 1997 and 1999, was a training series for employees from Regional Labor Exchanges all over Lithuania to be able to teach feasibility studies and business planning basics to unemployed people who applied for Labor Exchange loans. The Training of Trainers for Labor Exchange employees was conducted as well. Over 160 employees of regional Labor Exchanges were trained to be business consultants to unemployed clients. In addition, an electronic Trainer's manual was developed and published for this program (2000 copies in Lithuanian, 500 in English) and given to each regional Labor Exchange office. The training programs were sponsored by SPA and EBDP grants, as well as by the Labor Exchange that took full sponsorship for advanced business training in 2000 with the help of PCVs and Lithuanians as session designers and facilitators.

Many Volunteers worked on development of promotional materials about Lithuania. These included Official Vilnius,Lithuanian Banks, Litcom, State Higher Education and Research Institutions, Lithuania Business in Review, Foreign Aid Guide, Come to Lithuania, Lithuanian Agriculture Export Catalog, Accommodation Guide for Lithuania, Panevezys: A Newcomer's Guide, Siauliai at Your Fingertips, City Map of Ukmerge, Radviliskis Region Information Guide, and Prienai Tourism Brochure, Birzai Tourism Guide, A Visitors Guide for the Birzai Museum, Jurbarkas Region Tourism and Business Guide.

Also, the Lithuanian Development Agency for Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEDA), together with Peace Corps SED Volunteers assigned to the Business Advisory Centers (BAC) worked together on preparing materials for the National Reference Book (Basics for Business), containing information on 30 essential topics which cover a range from company formation, business registration, taxation to privatization. Moreover, Volunteers have developed dictionaries: one of over 3000 words that are cognates in English and Lithuanian, and one American slang dictionary.

Finally, PCVs, together with the Director of the Volunteer Center in Vilnius, wrote and published the book How to be an Effective Volunteer in English and Lithuanian.

The Peace Corps SED Project has worked closely with Junior Achievement and was an excellent example of a very valuable and successful organizational cooperation. Junior Achievement has benefited from having five Volunteers with different educational and professional backgrounds assigned to the JA office in Vilnius in 1994-1998. Other Volunteers taught an Applied Economics Course from the Junior Achievement Program to students and teachers in secondary schools of Lithuania, as well as participated in "student companies" and in the "Global Learning of the Business Enterprise" (GLOBE) program. PCVs have assisted in organizing a Summer Economic Forum, Economic Olympics and JA Summer Camps attended by JA students. PCVs assigned to the Junior Achievement in Vilnius assisted the National Office in staff training, revising their publications, preparing promotional materials, fund raising, planning, preparing and implementing the JA booth at the first NGO Fair in Lithuania, and co-organized the European Macro Economic Simulation Exercise (EUROMESE) competition.

PCVs participated in setting up several Business Advisory and NGO Centers. These included Jurbarkas, Prienai, Kaunas Business and Ukmerge NGO Information Centers, Alytus Business Incubator, Ignalina Regional Youth and Non-Traditional Agriculture Information and Training Centers, Marijampole Business Information Center (within the Marijampole Branch of Kaunas Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Crafts), the International School of Management in Kaunas, and Alytus Business College Book Store. Furthermore, Volunteers assisted organizations in training their employees in building organizational capacity, in planning their time, activities, fundraising and in developing grant proposals. They helped develop techniques for work with clients and foreign and local partners, and to develop the management capacity of their boards of directors. Good examples of activities initiated or supported by Volunteers were: Lithuanian NGO Fair Forum in Vilnius with 70 NGOs represented; Annual Special Olympic Games, and a Very Special Arts and Athletic Festival in Lithuania with the participation of 1000 physically and 600 mentally handicapped athletes; Siauliai Campus Career Day that brought about 80 students and 7 businesses together; the 5th Annual NGO Forum; Student Rotary Exchange Program and many others.

Administration

The Peace Corps program in Lithuania was administered from a central office in Riga and the satellite office in Vilnius. The Vilnius office was opened in late 1992 and had two program assistants, English Education (TEFL) and Small Enterprise Development (SED), on staff. In 1994 the office expanded with the addition of a Resource Center Manager, a Medical Officer and an Office Manager. A Lithuanian Language Coordinator, working part-time since 1992, became a full-time employee at the beginning of 1995.

At the completion of the Peace Corps' mission in the country, the Peace Corps Resource Center materials were distributed to six organizations and agencies including the Educational Centers in Pakruojis and Telsiai, A. Mickevicius Library, the NGO Information and Support Center, the Lithuanian Development Agency for Small and Medium Size Enterprise, and the Lithuanian Language Studies' Center in Vilnius.

Immeasurable Accomplishments

For many Lithuanians as well as the Americans, this was the first opportunity for sustained contact with people who were culturally different. In both cases, the participants learned how to speak another language, gained tolerance for different viewpoints, overcame these differences, and made deep and abiding friendships. In fact, in Lithuania there were 21 marriages between Volunteers and Lithuanians. They hold the Baltic Peace Corps record for marriages.

Skills transferred, new viewpoints considered; these are the gifts that the Lithuanians and Americans gave and received in equal measure. They will never be enumerated, and they will never stop producing results.

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