The Craftsmanship School SODŽIAUS MEISTRAI was established by St John’s congregation Vilnius abbey. The St John Brothers were invited to come to Vilnius by Archbishop A.J. Bačkis, and have been caring for homeless Lithuanian children for more than 10 years. The program “St John’s children” was created to help street children. The Abbey brothers have helped many children find family shelter in four villages in the district of Rudiskes, Trakai. The children are being raised according to Christian principals; they have started going back to school and have become part of society.
The goal of the program is not only to care for the children but also to teach them how to live an independent life. This was the reason for establishing a craftsmanship school in 2002. The main goal of the school is to help young people learn the skills which will enable them to live independently. They learn a trade for which there is demand, as well as getting a good general education.
Large state vocational schools are not able to respond to the needs of children living in villages and who have learning difficulties. We have decided to create a small institution with lots of practical activities and run by qualified specialists. We have chosen the model of the oldest French craftsmanship association “Les Compagnons du Devoir” which runs apprenticeship programmes. We have worked together with the specialists of the association and became one of the first private vocational schools in Lithuania using this apprenticeship model. This method provides students with 2 weeks theoretical training in the classroom followed by 2 weeks practical training in companies.
The school team, helped by the St John’s brothers, aims to teach young people to build their lives based not only on their chosen profession but by also teaching them to find common Christian values. To become a good Master one needs to be a good person.
• To educate young people with social and learning difficulties according to Christian principals.
• To give them a profession and a general education.
• To establish personal contact with every student.
• To revive the master skills of interwar Lithuania and to safeguard our cultural heritage.
PROFESSIONS TAUGHT AT THE SCHOOL
Carpenter. Future carpenters learn to construct and mount wooden roofs; timber, frame and shield work. The students learn to recognize the varieties and features of different woods, various wooden constructions and their uses. They learn to read and prepare technical drawings.
This master skill has been forgotten in Lithuania and is often confused with the woodworkers’ profession. We are looking forward to reviving this master skill and its traditions.
Roofer (Slater). Future roofers learn different jobs: how to decide on the joints of roof, how to calculate the amount of materials needed, how to make the roof and insulate it with various materials, how to install water collection systems, such as gutters and down pipes, how to read technical drawings and to prepare estimates of their work.
Confectioner. Confectioners learn to make all sorts of dough, to make pastries, to make fillings and confectionary and to understand basic confectionary skills. We teach them the artistic techniques so that the final product looks appealing.
Cook. Future cooks learn how to make meat, fish and vegetables dishes, as well as basic techniques involving the use of flour and other products. They make various sauces, garnishes; calculate the amount of products needed, assess product quality and of meat, fish, vegetables design menus. The students are taught to be creative and to improvise.
From 2005-2007 we taught students how to shoe horses. Eight graduates of this profession now work in Stud farms in Lithuania.
In the future, we plan to offer courses in the restoration of wooden buildings.