2020.03.18 17:27

Shopping trips for elderly and free food – solidarity in time of crisis

Lithuanians are coming together to cope with the coronavirus quarantine. People are offering to do shopping for their elderly neighbours while several restaurants are delivering free food to doctors.

“If you're over 60, have chronic diseases, had to isolate yourself for 14 days, or are alone with small children and no one to assist you, we can help,” says an ad in one of Vilnius apartment blocks. Neighbours are offering to bring groceries, run errands or simply offer company to the people who are stuck in their homes due to the coronavirus.

Read more: Lithuanians greet quarantine with Eurovision song and applause

Similar ads have appeared in several buildings in Vilnius.

“Probably around 90 percent of people in my building are elderly. So I wanted to do something for them,” says Lukas Palubinskas. “I know from experience and from meeting people in hallways that help is needed, and not only during quarantine.”

He hasn't had much response to the ads yet, but he expects people will turn for help as quarantine takes its toll.

In an effort to stem the spread of the coronavirus, the Lithuanian government ordered to shut schools and kindergartens, meaning that children must stay at home with their parents.

Renata Šumskaitė lives in a building with many young families with children who might need help.

“My kid's classmate's dad could not return home due to border closures, so the mum is now home alone with children,” she says.

When she thought of offering help she says she first thought of mothers with children who don't want to take their children outside, but can't leave them alone either.

Businesses are also offering to contribute. Two restaurants, Jurgis ir Drakonas and Brooklyn Brothers, started delivering free food to several hospitals in Vilnius and Kaunas this week.

“It is a complicated time for everyone, including businesses, but we realise that we have to help doctors who are helping us,” says Giedrė Eiliakas, managing director of Jurgis ir Drakonas.

Coordinating food deliveries to hospitals was a challenge, she admits, but “the reactions were very positive”.

Eiliakas says that other businesses want to join the initiative, too. “Yesterday, we were approached by a woman who bakes šakočiai [Lithuanian cake] nearby and she asked if we could pass on pastries and some bread.”

Several other restaurants plan to join the initiative in Vilnius, Kaunas, Klaipėda and other towns.

Another initiative, #StiprūsKartu (strong together), has invited volunteers to bring groceries to elderly people and donate food to poor families.

“We also invite people who have cars and can be couriers or help in other ways to register,” the organisers said in a statement.

The volunteer coordination centre has invited volunteers and those who need assistance during the coronavirus quarantine to register on or call the free line 1827.