New friends. Togetherness. Unity. Hugs. These things are vital to the human condition and all too frequently not prioritized in our daily lives. Too often in our day and age, our collective focus tends to be preoccupied with our differences and our disagreements. The world can be scary place and a constant flow of negative imagery can have one feeling down, depressed and disillusioned. So naturally, when Social Erasmus week rolled around, ESN LSMU took it upon our selves to challenge the seemingly bleak global narrative with some heartwarming community spirit. Tasked with the duty of promoting positivity and unanimity, the "Free Hugs" initiative was born.

Motivated by a desire to encourage the public expression of unity, the intrepid ESNers set off with a simple mission, to hug strangers. Armed with little more than a colourful banner and open arms, ESN members offered passers-by the chance to briefly abandon societal conventions and "hug it out" with absolute strangers. ESNers were assembled on the LSMU campus to offer unassuming library-goers the chance to physically embrace one another as a symbol of fellowship and good faith.

"Free hugs" day was met with an overwhelmingly positive response and over 200 embraces were had that day. About the project one participant remarked "there's something comforting about a hug from someone you don't know, it kind of reminds you that there are great people out there.. it just made me feel more connected.. like we are in this together"

When asked, "what's makes a Good hug?" ESNer Santi Martin says " Facial expression and eye contact. And approach speed. Don't come in too fast, allow the recipients to come to you. It's important to create an atmosphere where people feel comfortable and wiling to hug back. Just don't be creepy. Creepy is bad"

Just as a hug can brighten up someone’s whole day, the act of donating blood might just save someone’s life. In the spirit of giving as part of Social Erasmus week, ESN LSMU also proudly coordinated a blood drive along with the hospital blood center. The effort featured a temporary clinic on campus in the pharmacy building, where donors were met by 11 ESN representatives for instructions and equally importantly, moral support.

In an emergency situation, blood transfusions are truly a matter of life and death and the demand for blood donations in the Kaunas region is at times dire. Understandably ESN members were thrilled to find that blood was drawn from 27 donors over the course of the daylong project, culminating in more than a dozen liters of fresh blood for patients in need. Representatives of the blood clinic staff were impressed with the project and have expressed an interest in a continued partnership with ESN LMSU for future blood drives!

All in all, Social Erasmus week here at LSMU has been a truly rewarding endeavor, reminding us all what is possible when people come together with good intentions and a common goal. Many thanks to all the participants and stay tuned for more exciting upcoming activities!

Kiefer Brask