How it began and what the future holds
Sunlight Children’s Aid , ‘Saulute’, is celebrating 30 extraordinary years of progress and impact from tireless volunteers and generous donors, including reaching a remarkable milestone of $4 million dollars sent to help orphaned, underprivileged and special needs children in Lithuania. In 1993, Indre Tijunelis found herself an ‘empty nester’ with time on her hands and a passion for helping others. The collapse of the Soviet Union brought to the forefront that marginalized children would be at even a more severe risk of neglect. They needed an advocate. With literally a zero budget, she visited 50 orphanages in Lithuania to assess their needs and figure out a path to move forward. Saulute officially incorporated in March 1993 and began its mission to assist orphans, eventually branching out to Supporting children in Lithuania with disabilities or living in undeserved communities in Lithuania.
‘Sponsor a Child’ was created to assist individual children that were stuck in the circle of poverty. As the name implies, a child was sponsored by a family and 100% of the donation went directly to the child. Donations even included items such as motorized wheel chairs and other medical equipment. One donation paid for the digging of a well so that the family of a severely disabled child living on a farm had access to clean water. As an unanticipated bonus, some families started corresponding and there were instances of people actually meeting and creating friendships.
Saulute also aligned with “Mercy Lift” http://lithuanianmercylift.org/ and American companies willing to fund transport goods overseas. For approximately 10 years, over 2000 packages of medical equipment were sent annually to hospitals. Some U.S doctors donated their time in teaching Lithuanian doctors about new medical technology allowing them to incorporate that knowledge into their own practices using the equipment sent by Saulute.
Over the years, Saulute has expanded and evolved. It came to light that rural schools were having trouble raising funds for special needs equipment for student use. Special needs encompasses a broad definition that includes dyslexia, speech impediments, hyperactivity to more severe issues such as physical, cognitive and/or behavioral development problems. Saulute realized that by providing a special needs classroom, in one swoop hundreds of kids could benefit from the equipment for multiple years. A new idea was born. In 2021, a school in the town of Mosedis was outfitted with a classroom funded by Saulute, immediately helping 64 children. The classroom was such a success that Saulute launched 6 other similar projects in other rural schools this year. Looking ahead, Saulute is in the process of selecting two more schools to support.
What started as a one woman show has blossomed into a well run organization of old and new friends, working together to help create brighter environment for children in need. Those orphans from 1993 have now grown into adults and have become music teachers, artists and business owners. Saulute is proud of its accomplishments. What has been achieved is unbelievable. On behalf of the children, Saulute thanks everyone for their support, past and present! The mission continues. https://sunlightchildrensaid.org/