Case Studies

Decolonizing education system in YDC in Lithuania

Ieva Mackute from UWC USA delivered this workshop based project to help change the perspective on education in youth detention centres in Lithuania.

Life in a youth detention centre in Lithuania is mostly demotivating and oppressive and Ieva wanted to help inspire the clients at the centre.


Daily routine in the summer in the YDC is limited to Lithuanian television, gym and basketball court, one is considered very lucky to get a job inside the facility. The project aimed to expose the clients to new areas and subjects that are not taught at school, as well as providing new ways of gaining knowledge.

How the Funding Was Used

airplane models €400

paint and other supplies for murals €80

professional mural artist €100

office supplies €150

food and drinks €50

transportation €20

printing the certificates €20

The balance was used to help towards accommodation costs

How They Made A Difference

Ieva describes the project in more detail below:

Tangible achievements from this project included:

  • changing their physical environment by painting the walls of their main corridor;
  • learning the basics of programming a website and creating one;
  • finding out about possible professions in aero mechanics while building an airplane model;
  • having a great basketball session that was later rewarded with new basketball balls, T-shirts and other inventory;
  • 4 different projects created in small groups of clients collaborating with volunteers that were on a topic: “If you could change anything in this facility, what it would be?” Groups were given instructions on how to set goals, how to face the challenges and how to realistically plan the steps;
  • small personal notebooks, that were filled on the topics we discussed about and that now act as a memory for all project’s participants;
  • making maps of our lives, that were later attached to the back of our personal notebooks.
  • on the last day, envelopes were distributed with letters from volunteers to every client, to express our positive insights on their personalities, compliment and encourage them, as well as show our gratitude for their attentiveness and thoughtfulness during our meetings.

Intangible achievements of this project:

  • created strong connections between each other that are currently maintained with letters;
  • an interactive lecture on vulnerable groups in nowadays society, followed by an activity organised together with an organisation “Human Library”, where clients had an opportunity to talk to some of the representatives of those vulnerable groups (e.g. a girl who was recovering from severe addictions and depression or a man who was incarcerated 4 times, however, now has a sustainable and happy life);
  • one of the days was named “Your activities” – this was our initiative to empower the youth in the facility and exchange the roles for a day, we became the followers and they – the leaders. First, I was not expecting a lot, I thought the most what will be organised is a basketball match, therefore, I was hugely surprised once they started leading some team-building activities and later taught us the art of arm wrestling, lead a training session and a competition.
  • during the poetry/performance night, some of the clients were rapping their own creation songs, while others read out loud their favourite poems;
  • almost every day I would ask them if they had any wishes or suggestions for us and our activities, and although most of the clients would answer that they are happy with all the ideas that we think, there were few basketball lovers who wanted to meet with some professional basketball players and play together with them. Though they thought that this is impossible to happen, I actually had some connections that helped me to bring two basketball players (one of who is a coach), who not only talked to and played together with them but also lead a 2-hour long training session. That was the last day of the project and neither I or administration have seen the whole group of them as happy as they were then;
  • every day we were sharing our pains and joys together, we were real with each other, as some days we expressed our fears, other days we were sincerely laughing and smiling till the last minute of the visit. This real connection was truly appreciated by both sides.

What am I proud of?

I am proud of volunteers who were constantly texting me with new ideas for the project that later worked surprisingly well, of our long discussions after every meeting, reflecting on our experiences and thinking of possible ways to change the existing structure. I am proud of the guys who were so brave that they shared their lives, thoughts and feelings with us volunteers. I am proud of myself that I didn’t throw this project away even in the hardest moments when everything seemed to fall apart and didn’t make sense anymore.


The enduring successes of the project:

Painted walls (and all other tangible achievements); knowledge on programming, aero mechanics, vulnerable groups, setting goals; connections with some of the clients (that will be maintained through letters); my own connections with people that can help creating bigger and better projects in the future.

How did the project make a difference to the people I was aiming to help, what impact has it had on them?

There were different environments and opportunities created for everyone, so that almost every client opened themselves and showed their strengths in one way or another.

Looking at some specific examples, according to one of the guys, we made this month just fly in the speed of light. Another guy wrote during the reflection: “I found out that not everyone on this planet is selfish, not everyone thinks only about themselves, that there are people who devote their time to us, that there are still some good people left.” One of the most significant impacts for me was on an 18-year-old guy who at first said that he hates reading, though has already read one of the books that I gave to him.

How The Project Made A Difference for the Volunteers

For all except one volunteers that was the first interaction with a detention facility, therefore, it was an eye-opening experience that made everyone think and reflect on the issues related to punitive justice and incarceration. Moreover, this opportunity broke (or sometimes confirmed) all the stereotypes about incarcerated people.

For me personally that was an opportunity to get into the area of criminal justice in my home country, become familiar with the current situation and think of ideas for the future (some more idealistic, while others realistic). Organising this project also got me more involved in the society back home and gave me many connections that I would not have created otherwise. Moreover, because of this project I feel pretty firm with the decision to study criminology in the university.


Organising this project also got me more involved in the society back home and gave me many connections that I would not have created otherwise.