Welcoming the anniversaries of the members of the Univ. of Latvia Senior Association. Photo: Toms Grīnbergs, UL.

Since 2010, the long-term project of the University of Latvia Seniors’ Club “Integration of University of Latvia Seniors’ Club in the Modern Society” was commenced with the support of patron “Japan Tobacco International” (JTI), administered by the University of Latvia Foundation. The project ensures participation of seniors in cultural, artistic, and educational learning events, off-site lectures, exchanges, discussions and various training programmes.

The Board of the University of Latvia Seniors’ Club is proud of the unique, constantly provided care of the retired employees, as they receive support and assistance in implementing their initiatives. The beginnings of the University of Latvia Seniors’ Club or Association can be traced back to the mid-1990s. In 2003, a new structural unit of the University of Latvia – Social Services – was established. It brings together about 300 former employees of the academic and general staff of the University of Latvia, who have worked at the University of Latvia for at least 25 years. It is quite significant that the head of the University of Latvia Social Services, as well as the organizer and coordinator of the Seniors’ Club since its establishment is Astra Kravčenko – a University of Latvia graduate who has spent her entire working life, which commenced at 18 years of age, at the University of Latvia. This autumn will mark the 45th anniversary of Astra's first and so far, – the only job.

JTI support is one of the best manifestations of philanthropy. JTI's support to our Senior Club has been invaluable for many years. We have been able to gain much more new information and new impressions by traveling our homeland and neighbouring countries. Within the framework of the project, there was an opportunity to acquire new knowledge and skills by participating in English language courses, computer training classes and attending performances at the Latvian National Theatre and Valmiera Drama Theatre,” delightfully told the members of the University of Latvia Seniors’ Club.

The philosophy of giving

Since 2010, with the funding of the patron JTI and the administrative support of the University of Latvia Foundation, the project “Integration of the University of Latvia Seniors’ Club in the Modern Society" has been implemented. It envisages the participation of seniors in cultural, artistic, educational events, field lectures, exchange of experience, discussions and various training programmes.

The patron, company “Japan Tobacco International” is an international distributor of tobacco products that are available in 130 countries globally, including in Latvia. The Japanese origin company has 45 000 employees, three of them here as well. Since its inception in 1999, the company’s growth is based on sustainable business with continuous development of new products, rapid improvement and innovative approach.  

The company’s philosophy is to give back to the society, including the seniors, by supporting the most vulnerable part of the society in the countries JTI operates. “It seems that nowadays the biggest threat is to be lonely and feel excluded. We are glad to create new opportunities to the former University professors and employees – to come together, feel engaged, exchange their views, discuss, to realize themselves,” admits Jaanus Pauts, Director of Corporate Affairs and Communication in the Baltics, Iceland and Finland.

“Those times are over when the companies are only trying to earn money or make a profit. As much as company can, the we are trying to be a socially involved and responsible enterprise. Values of the society are changing rapidly. Therefore, it is important to be a part of the united society, to have stable values shared with our employees,” emphasises J. Pauts. For years, JTI supports inclusive projects. Recently, the company started to support the Latvian Food Bank – because of the pandemic, there were problems with food supply. That is an opportunity to give a temporary contribution for those who need it the most, and help to meet people's basic needs.

Maintaining and strengthen ties with alma mater

“It is hard to name a single highlight. In 10 years, we have enjoyed a lot of excursions and trips. Excursions are always valuable, full of impressions and they create positive emotions. The trip to Latgale and the Daugava circles together with the poetess Anna Rancāne is especially remembered by everyone.

It was a real pleasure to travel to Lithuania when we visited the famous resort town of Palanga and got to know the old town of Klaipēda. Particularly fun moments marked the visit to the Klaipēda Dolphinarium, we rejoiced like children – the dolphins’ performance really won the audience over, clearly, these animals are intellectual beings,” the members of the University of Latvia Seniors’ Club remember with a smile. The seniors of the University of Latvia express their warm gratitude to the head of the Social Services Astra Kravčenko for excellent organization of work, her genuine dedication and sincerity in taking care of the University's family of seniors.

Thinking about future activities, one of the planned activities could be to learn about the experience of other European universities by getting acquainted with other senior organizations and their activities. The Seniors’ Club has developed beautiful traditions – trips, discussion club activities, celebration of birthdays, Christmas event, visits to the rehearsals of the Opera and Ballet. “All this enriches us mentally and emotionally. We must continue to work in these directions. However, the world is full of opportunities, you just have to look around, see them and implement them to fill the life of the University of Latvia seniors with colour and interests,” reflect the members of club. Let's live according to the principle “Treat others the way you would like to be treated and share the energy of positivity!”

A special gift to seniors

The University of Latvia Seniors’ Club members are grateful to the University of Latvia leadership, Rector, Professor Indriķis Muižnieks and the UL Foundation for the opportunity to maintain contacts with their Alma Mater, socialize, participate in important university events, to feel needed and appreciated. Seniors value the support of JTI as a special gift: “Without the support of the patron, we would not be able to travel so much. During the excursions we have the opportunity to explore the history of Latvia, visit cultural and historical objects, to get acquainted with today's achievements, to obtain information about different regions of our homeland, the people and their traditions. Trips to Lithuania and Estonia allow us to compare what is common and different in all three Baltic countries. The positive emotions that we gain strengthen our health, enrich us with joy of living and endow us with the awareness that what we have done during our working years is appreciated. We delight in the successful cooperation with the patron.”

The representative of the patron company J. Pauts is visiting the University of Latvia Seniors’ Club members at least once a year. “Some time ago I received a very special personal gift – that was a handmade ex libris, made by the club’s member. Each time when I meet them, I can feel a sincere and personal approach. They are very interesting people, who are always sharing exciting stories,” he remembers.

“I’m glad that the cooperation with both the Seniors’ Club and the UL Foundation has been very steady. All the summary reports are prepared by the members themselves. The reports are very accurate and detailed, reflecting the activities and expenses. This feedback really shows that the support goes to the right place,” says J. Pauts.

“As we are a company of Japanese origin, social values, mutual relations and respect is highly evaluated. All that taken together creates a very good experience for the employees.” JTI has good contacts with the Japanese Embassy in Latvia. Both are supporting and promoting Japanese cultural events in Latvia. The future idea is to involve the UL Seniors’ Club members in the Japanese cultural events.

The impressions were shared by the University of Latvia seniors Inta Sabūrova, Mudīte Smiltena, Maija Treilona, Biruta Garanča, Ināra Penēze and Astra Kravčenko.

About the University of Latvia Foundation

Since 2004, the UL Foundation provides an opportunity to patrons and cooperation partners to support both the University of Latvia and other leading higher education institutions of our country, thereby investing in the future of Latvia. The priorities of the UL Foundation are to support the most outstanding, dedicated students and researchers, to advance creation of a modern study environment, as well as to promote construction and refurbishment of university’s buildings.

About the University of Latvia Seniors’ Club

The UL Seniors’ Club is an association of long-term teaching staff and administrative employees, which unites about 300 retired volunteer members who want to maintain ties with the UL, feel like full members of their former workplace and participate in multifaceted social events. The Board of the UL Seniors’ Club consists of 9 seniors, its chair is Pēteris Rozenbergs, a former employee of the Faculty of Physics, Mathematics and Optometry of the University of Latvia. The Board consists of Jānis Vitkovskis, Andrejs Rudzītis, Rūta Ansone, Maija Elpere, Biruta Garanča, Dzintra Keiša, Ausma Liepa and Rita Tiesniece.


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