Charity and Support Fund “Gyvenimo vartai” (“Gates to Life” in Lithuanian) was established in March 2004 in the second-largest Lithuanian city Kaunas by Giedrius Žukas. The founder and director of the fund himself went through the difficult path of an addict, but with the help of God and dedicated people, he found his way to sobriety. After regaining the full-fledged life, he answered to the calling to also help those who are still living in the mire of addictions. The founder thus half joking adheres to the motto: „By helping others, one helps himself or herself in the best way possible”.
The first project of Charity and Support Fund “Gyvenimo vartai” was prepared with the help of Swedish organisation “KRIS” (Criminals Return into Society in English, represented by Peter Soderlund and Jan Tonny Hansen) and supported by the Lithuanian Ministry of Social Security and Labour. A few years later, based on the experience of a Swedish NGO, a methodology named “Kai jūra iki kelių” (“[When One Is Intoxicated], the Sea Seems Shallow…” in Lithuanian) based on preventive classes was also prepared. It encompasses all the most important aspects of addictions (drugs, alcohol, tobacco, bullying and rejection, internet and social media, youth culture, the role of parents). „Kai jūra iki kelių” is adapted for different target groups in Lithuania: children, teenagers, youth, young adults, and their family members.
In 2004, the social Day Center serving the former addicts was established in Kaunas, Kapsų st. 11. This place serves as becomes the starting point for many addicts on the way to resurrection and offers information, individual or group counselling, plus mediation services. In 2010 specialized addiction rehabilitation community was founded in the Rokiškių III village in Kruonis eldership of Kaišiadorių district in Central Lithuania. It was the place where integrated assistance services were provided to the recovering persons.
Our Focus Now
The range of services at Charity and Support Fund “Gyvenimo vartai” is now supplemented by assistance in acquiring a specialty and finding employment. For this purpose, clients are assisted by a special social worker, an employment mediator, a psychologist, and a self-promotion plus web marketing specialist during the implementation of projects. By applying tested, the integration into the labor market of recovering persons and those who were socially isolated is achieved. For example, during the project „Auksinės Rankos” Ist stage in summer and autumn of 2022, as much as 70 pc of clients found employment or chose further education. Also, the specialists highly rated our results with solving long term female unemployment were attained (43 pc of involved project participants were women).
When starting to carry out such a broad-minded activity, the foundation inevitably faced issues of sustainability. It was decided that Charity and Support Fund „Gyvenimo vartai” should run a social business. in 2013 initial support was received to create the foundation’s first social business – firewood production, the equipment necessary for this task was purchased. The project worked successfully for 5 years.
After concentrating its activities in Kaunas, Charity and Support Fund “Gyvenimo vartai” re-targeted its activities in the field of social business by establishing the small enterprise „Jūsų ūkvedys”. There the customers of the foundation can earn sources when providing building maintenance or repair services.
In 2022, the social workshop „Golden hands” with a focus on woodworking was established. Its start was supported by the European Social Fund funded project in Lithuania named „Alternative investment detector” (AID). We were provided by start-up funds, but also received the opportunity to consult and exchange experience in a network with similar organizations providing employment and education services throughout the whole country.
For more than 2 years, Charity and Support Fund“Gyvenimo vartai” cooperates with the renowned “Maisto bankas” („Food Bank” in Lithuanian) charity fund program. And twice a week we will distribute food products to the needy in Žaliakalnis district, where around 25 families receive support. In total, thanks to “Maisto bankas” and our helpers volunteers we distribute support for an average of 3288 euros per month.
When implementing the recent project aiming at institutional strengthening and conception of new social services funded by the NGO Fund by the Lithuanian Ministry of Social Security and Labour, “Gyvenimo Vartai” formed an alliance with other Kaunas based NGOs motivated for betterment of social services provisions. The alliance includes the young mothers’ foundation „Aušta„, „Kartu stipresni„- NGO which helps those experiencing mental health problems and their families, the Kaunas city society for the disabled and the foundation “RIGRA” which facilitates dependent persons and their relatives. In the future, we aim to provide comprehensive social services in one location in the city of Kaunas.
For a wider review of our activities, you can download a presentation here.
This project is financed by the Ministry of Social Security and Labor of the Republic of Lithuania.