Kristina Ona Polukordiene
This profile was prepared when Kristina Ona Polukordiene was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2000.
The New Idea
Kristina seeks to create comprehensive support systems for teenagers with psychological problems. She sees the psychiatric system and medical treatment as a necessary component of a much broader system of support. Kristina's approach includes community-based networks of psychological aid that are principally run by trained youth volunteers. In her model, traditional and nontraditional therapy complement and enhance each other. In the community-based programs that Kristina designs, youth volunteers and clients work together to assume responsibility for one another. Intervention volunteers learn to better understand clients and clients receive motivation and hope from volunteers. Both groups inevitably see themselves as members of greater communities that they themselves can influence in positive ways. Kristina's innovative programs of social psychological aid, in their various adaptations, can be implemented widely in other mental health systems. Kristina's approach to volunteer work in crisis prevention and intervention services is highly regarded in Lithuania and is beginning to gain international attention. Services that realize their objectives through activities designed by citizens for citizens should not be looked upon as an exception, she believes, but as a natural part of social psychological support. And social psychological support is both a natural impetus to, and outgrowth of, strong, vital communities.