This profile was prepared when Nijole Arbaciauskiene was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2000.
The New Idea
In Lithuania and other central European countries, when people retire from their jobs they lose their defining social role and rarely have a structured way to participate in the community. Nijole is the first Lithuanian to offer this neglected population opportunities to help others in need by participating in volunteer programs. She established the Elderly Women's Activities Center in 1994, to help retired and elderly people transform their place in society from burden to productive member. EWAC's members–more than 200 in Kaunas and others throughout the country–gain access to resources and training that enable them to develop expertise, improve their own lives, and regain a sense of utility and purpose. Additionally, EWAC helps participants connect with members of younger generations and encourages a cross-generational exchange of experiences.