VILNIUS, LITHUANIA, December 4th — Today, the opening of the International Charity Christmas Bazaar was held at the Vilnius Town Hall (Rotušės aikštė).
The event organized by the International Women’s Association of Vilnius (IWAV) since 2002 welcomes 31 charity stands, of which 27 are from various embassies. In addition, embassies and business representatives hold different booths and present their countries and their cultures.
Ambassadors and Consuls alike, such as the ambassadors of Finland and Germany, attended the opening of the Bazaar. The vice-mayor of Vilnius Edita Tamošiūnaitė, the ex-president Dalia Grybauskaitė, and the First Lady of Lithuania Diana Nausėdienė, attended the event as well.
The opening ceremony ended with the cutting of the ribbon by the main organizers: Vaida Kisieliūtė (chairwoman of IWAV), Diana Nausėdienė (First Lady of Lithuania), Arja Makkonen (ambassador of Finland) and Edita Tamošiūnaitė (Vice-mayor of Vilnius).
Vaida Kisieliūtė, the chairwoman of IWAV and chief organizer of the Bazaar, discussed the event and the role of the International Women’s Association of Vilnius in the project.
What is the aim of the International Charity Christmas Bazaar?
“This is the only gathering taking place in Lithuania, where you can see a specific country’s culture, meet people, talk in English, Finnish or, I don’t know, German or in any other language,” said the chairwoman.
Organized in cooperation with Lithuania’s international diplomatic and business communities, contributors help prepare souvenirs, hand-made crafts, and other Christmas products. Then, all of the proceeds made from the event are donated to various carefully chosen Lithuanian charities to help those who need it the most.
According to their website, the Bazaar has raised more than 1 million euros since its beginning.
What is the International Women’s Association of Vilnius?
“The International Women’s Association is the main organizer of this fair. The association is comprised of 80 female volunteers who, in one way or another, contribute to its activities and participated in bringing this event to fruition. We have already been doing all of this for 19 years in a row as organizers. Women in the association don’t get any salaries; this is completely voluntary work,” stressed Kisieliūtė.
An event troubled by Covid-19
According to the chairwoman, the situation with the pandemic was worrying. So many things were being done without knowing if permits would be given out.
For example, the prospect of getting Austrian goods to Lithuania was unclear. In addition, it was unknown if all of the embassies would be able to present their own products.
Yet, they succeeded in the challenge of organizing the biggest get-together with embassies of the year by staying inside the Covid-19 guidelines and following restrictions.
“The previous year was done virtually. Even though the Bazaar was conducted online, a lot of embassies participated in it, but what does participating virtually mean when we can be here in person?” concluded the chairwoman.