LSMU International Students Among Volunteers at the Lithuanian Border

From May 2021, when the flow of migrants across the Lithuanian-Belarusian border began to increase, in the summer months, more than 4,000 people arrived in Lithuania from Iraq, Congo, Cameroon, Iran, Afghanistan, and other countries. Volunteers, including LSMU international students, helped the state to cope with the challenges of the migrant crisis. Michel Abou Jaoude, a 5th year Veterinary Medicine student and Reem Abdel Moniem, a 4th year Medicine student, spent last summer in Lithuania volunteering at the border, sacrificing their time and energy to help our country.

pic1.jpg (regular, 500x370)On April 4, the Dean of the International Relations and Study Center at the Lithuanian University of Health Sciences, Prof. Ingrida Janulevičienė, and Vice-Dean Alvidas Šarlauskas gave the students small gifts for their significant contribution to the well-being of the Lithuanian state through their work and example. During the meeting, the International Relations office administration welcomed the students and noted that such individuals, full of enthusiasm and bright ideals, are an example of focus and unification against an enormous challenge.

Michel (V): It was a one-of-a-kind experience for me! Working with the Lithuanian Police Services is something I never imagined doing and will always remember this opportunity I got. I volunteered to help with the refugees as I was able to communicate with them in Arabic and French language and hopefully proved useful in an unusual and difficult time for Lithuania.

The main tasks and responsibilities I had was interviewing the refugees in different camps scattered around the borders, and in purpose of conveying the needs of these refugees as well as get the most information possible on the scheme that was used by the Belarussian government in order to perform this flood of illegal immigration (where some of the refugees had no idea about); the main purpose was to help the police find out the different paths and roads used and the people involved in the trafficking, all in order to find a solution to this crisis.

One of the main challenges I faced during this time was figuring out a subtle way of interviewing the refugees that with no doubt were scared, tired, and hopeless. As well as some communication difficulties when different dialects were spoken and to add, some refugees were reluctant to speak.

This experience has taught me a lot, from conducting interviews, gathering, and interpreting loads of information and passing it in a detailed and clear way to the officers. And finally, this experience taught me to appreciate what I have and do whatever I can to help those in need!

Reem Abdel Moniem Mohamed (IV): When I volunteered during the summer, my main task was to mediate communication between the Arab speaking refugees and the Lithuanian representatives; I just assisted by verbally translating what they said to me from Arabic into English. It was very challenging at first due to many technical reasons like different dialects, and from a human standpoint as hearing their stories was very heart breaking. The biggest take away for me was that it allowed me to foster my empathy and sympathy. Which are qualities everyone needs but are more so needed for anyone working in the medical field.

Text and Photos: Agnė Jašauskaitė TRSC International Programme Coordinator