Rainbow over OHF

One Happy Family

January 2020

I can help people
and draw a smile in their faces.”
Sweis about volunteering
at One Happy Family

Situation on Lesvos

Arrivals in December
In the last years, the number of boat arrivals normally reduced during the winter months, but not this year! During the month of December, up until the 28th, 92 boats have arrived on Lesvos with 3,390 human beings seeking a better future – whereas in December 2018, 1,073 people arrived on Lesvos.

Number of people on the island
As of the 26th of December, 19,052 people have to live in and outside of Moria RIC. Just as a reminder: the official capacity of Moria RIC is of 2,840 spots.
On Lesvos over 21,000 people are in the middle of their asylum procedures – waiting for their interviews, for a decision to their cases or for transfers to the mainland. At the moment there are more than 83,000 asylum requests that haven’t been processed yet. The Greek Asylum Service (GAS) can only handle 2,400 cases monthly, so the current waiting time for interviews is up to 3 years – and given the amount of new arrivals, the waiting time keeps increasing.
The Greek government wants to add 750 staff at the GAS. According to Manos Logothetis, Greece Migration Ministry Secretary, the aim is that the waiting time for asylum seekers’ fist interview is of a maximum of 3-4 months.
Enclosed pre-departure centers and new law
On Samos the construction of the enclosed so called pre-departure center has started. It is supposed to hold 5,000 people and it has been announced that it will already open in January, right when the new Greek asylum law takes effect. Every asylum seeker arriving on Samos will be brought here for the first 25 days. Afterwards, asylum seekers who are deemed to have higher asylum chances, can go out of the camp during the day. But, in special cases, the detention can last up to 100 days. For people that might be deported, the detention can last up to 18 months. This kind of detention centers are planned to be built in the other so-called hotspot islands before next summer, and they are supposed to replace the current refugee camps.
The authorities on Lesvos voted against any new structures on their island.

Fire in a container in Kara Tepe
In Kara Tepe a young woman died at the beginning of December 2019 due to a fire in one of the containers. The woman is survived by her husband, who unsuccessfully tried to get her out of the container, and their children. It seems that the fire started with the explosion of a gas heater the family was using to keep the container warm.

Plan to deport 10,000 people back to Turkey until the end of 2020
The Greek government has announced a massive increase in deportations to Turkey in the next year, as foreseen by the EU-Turkey Deal. According to the Greek government, the enclosed pre-departure centers will support Greek officials to follow these procedures.

Stage 2 – Update
It was announced that the Skala Sykamineas transit camp (named Stage 2), administered by UNHCR, would be closed, but we are glad to inform you that it is still open and it is operating normally. Medical support and first receptions are still guaranteed by the NGOs and organisations working in the North of Lesvos.

Salam Aldeen, Team Humanity founder, arrested
Salam Aldeen, the founder of Team Humanity, an NGO currently running a child and women space next to Moria RIC, was arrested in mid-December on the charge of being a “public threat”. It’s the second time that Aldeen is facing charges in Greece after being accused of aiding illegal immigration in January 2016 – charges he was acquitted of in May 2018 after a trial that lasted two years. He has been released after 16 days in jail – without official charges - with the demand to leave Greece before the end of the year.

Petition in Germany for the country to accept 1,000 unaccompanied minors from Greece
More than 4,000 unaccompanied minors live in Greece, this petition requests the German Government to allow 1,000 of them to be transferred from the inhumane conditions in Greek camps to Germany. Please sign as well!

Arrests of lawyers, doctors... on the islands
The police has recently arrested several lawyers and doctors and other people on the Aegean Islands that have attested on behalf of people seeking asylum so that they could leave the islands, or supported them with travel documents, apparently in exchange for money. There also are lawyers that have been arrested on Lesvos on the charge of allegedly helping asylum seekers in exchange of big amounts of money.

Open letter from Christos Christou, MSF president, to the European leaders
“The situation is comparable with what we see after natural disasters or in war zones in other parts of the world. It is outrageous to see these conditions in Europe – a supposedly safe continent – and to know that they are the result of deliberate political choices. Rather than acknowledging the human cost of your approach, you continue to call for a more forceful implementation of the EU Turkey deal. You even consider more brutal measures, like the Greek government’s recently announced plans to convert the hotspots into mass detention centres, and to accelerate deportations. Stop this madness”, Christou said on his open letter dated on 27 November, after visiting Moria RIC.
Read the whole letter here: https://www.msf.org.uk/article/open-letter-european-leaders-stop-punishing-asylum-seekers-greek-islands

News from the Community Centre

Overview of 2019 at OHF
One Happy Family tries to be there – when it’s needed and as long as it’s needed. Our Community Center exists since over 2.5 years, and ever since its projects have been set up, running and improved.
In 2019, 182,789 visitors have been registered in our bank system (until the 29th of December). We can only estimate the total number of visitors, as not everyone registers at the bank every day, and our helpers, partners and volunteers aren’t registered. Therefore, approximately around 150-200 people have to be added per day.
Thursdays and Fridays are normally the busiest days – probably because one of these two days has always been “Chicken Day”, the favourite meal of most of our visitors.
October 2019 has been the busiest month with over 19,000 visits at our bank.
In the whole year of 2018, 153,341 visits were registered at our bank – this means that during 2019, the Community Center has had almost 30,000 more visitors. It also means that OHF is still needed, and we will do our best to keep it running.

First aid and safety trainings
We had another first aid and safety training for all our helpers, volunteers and coordination team members. It took place on two Saturdays and everyone who attended both days got a certificate at the end of the course.
On the first training day, the topics went from the theoretical part behind fires and accidents, to basic life support and a safety on site round. On the second Saturday, there were trainings with practical accident scenarios, as well as psychosocial support. What to do when a fire happens is one of the most important trainings for our helpers living in Moria, where, with the current weather, people often make fires to stay warm. That’s why the two training days concluded with a live fire exercise.

Receipts for donations and tax-free donations
The One Happy Family Association has tax exemption status in Switzerland. You can now use your donation receipt for your tax return in Switzerland (we can’t assure that you’ll get a tax reduction in other countries).

You will receive your donation receipts from 2019 in February 2020.
But in order to do this we need your help! Please contact us at fundraising@ohf-lesvos.org until mid-January 2020, with the subject “Donation Receipt” and provide your email address – since email is more ecological and faster :)
If you donated from Germany, please send an email with the same information to our Germany support address: germany@ohf-lesvos.org – thank you in advance for your assistance!

We will do our best to send you all your donation receipts as soon as we can! Please note that the day to day on Lesvos has priority and that the team in Switzerland is unfortunately not able to invest all of their time on this, since all of them work.

Opening of new women toilets at OHF
Finally! The new toilets for women and children have been inaugurated at OHF. They are located next to the clinic and the women’s space and are an addition to our two other women toilets.
So we now have in total 7 toilets (5 of which are new) for women and children, and very soon we will as well have a second baby station.
A big thank you from all the women at OHF to all the fundraisers, the people who shared our need, MSF for the container, and everyone working in keeping our toilets always clean and in good shape!
new toilets

More News from the Community Centre

Celebrating the new year with the OHF Family
This year we will celebrate New Year’s Eve at the Community Center again. All our current helpers and volunteers are invited to join with their spouse or partner and their kids.
The kitchen team will organize the dinner, and games, music and dances to all the favourite OHF songs will contribute to make it a very special event, well deserved by all the people involved, who put so much heart into this project.
A massive THANK YOU to all of you!

Safe Passage olive oil and socks
We are amazed! Around 600 safe passage socks are now out in the world – raising awareness about the situation, while enabling us to continue our amazing meals for all our visitors.
The olive oil was a huge success as well, we sold over 700 bottles! We are considering ordering olive oil from Lesvos again, so if you know a shop or a place that would like to support One Happy Family on a longer term by selling it, please contact us via fundraising@ohf-lesvos.org or contact Fanny directly.
Thank you!

Godparenthoods/sponsorships for Coordination team
As the godparenthood programme supporting our Coordination team wasn’t as successful as we had hoped, we have decided to end it this year. Nevertheless, you will be able to support our dear Coordination team and thus the project as a whole in many different ways.
All details on how to support One Happy Family can be found here: https://ohf-lesvos.org/donate
With any donation you can also specify a certain area where you’d like the money to go, like “Support Coordination Team”. This can be a monthly support as well.
We will attempt to the best of our ability to put your donation towards the project of your choice, but sometimes things do get tough and we have to direct the funds to another needed area of OHF. In any case, if we had fewer donations than needed to support the Coordination team, we would continue supporting them with a fixed amount, because having a stable core team is very much needed for the continuity of the project.

Inside the projects:Security

Security meeting
This year an Inside the Security Project Day was part of our Advent Calendar.

Feeling safe is something most of us take for granted, but for millions of people around the world it is nothing but a dream.
Where do you feel safe? For most of us 'home' offers the strongest feeling of safety and security. However, many people here on Lesvos can’t count on such concept of 'home' which offers that comfort.
At One Happy Family we try our best to give people this feeling of safety, whether they are with us for 20 minutes or for hours on end. Without our amazing security team, this would be impossible!
Comprised of approximately 20 helpers, including both men and women from many different cultures and countries, the security team is always at hand to disperse any negativity and defuse the inevitable occasional argument.
From before we open until after we close, our multilingual team has their eyes and ears open. They open our gates in the morning and constantly check the whole premises throughout the day, keeping in contact via walkie talkie. They run our lunch queue, which is no mean feat, and at the end of the day they check everyone has left.
Their demeanor is not at all imposing or threatening and this seems to be the secret to their success as, although people respect their authority, they also feel comfortable to approach them. They can certainly count many visitors, helpers and volunteers as friends!
The team is very open and honest, and is happy to help with pretty much everything: from a child with a lost shoe, to queries about English lessons, or the inevitable but infrequent fight.
Confrontation has always been rare in our 'happy bubble', but with Moria becoming increasingly over populated and access to all resources stretched beyond breaking point, tensions are of course rising.
Our security team has confronted this with humility and honesty and we have nothing but respect for them and the amazing work they do! Thank you for always being there to offer a helping hand and to reassure us that here, at One Happy Family, we are safe.

Picture of the month: Christmas tree à la OHF

It all started at the art table:
visitors of different ages made snowflakes, and painted stars that we hung all over with lights. And then, on Christmas day we had a visit from Santa! Our kitchen team prepared a special lunch, which came with chocolates for the adults, and every child got a cookie baked by our amazing volunteers.
A big THANK YOU to everyone involved!

You can read below a summary of Christmas at OHF from one of our volunteers:
A home away from home - Christmas at OHF (by Melissa Silver)

With the main hall lined with fairy lights, the building sprinkled with stars, and enough glitter everywhere that we’ll probably still be finding it next year, Christmas began.

Though few of the visitors celebrate Christmas, they got into the spirit like Christmas cheer professionals. Everywhere I walked, I heard “Merry Christmas!” and people lined up to get their photo with Santa or those wearing reindeer headbands. Our 2D Christmas tree, made by one of OHF’s carpenters, attracted family photos just like it would have back home. Covered in lights and OHF-made ornaments, it was a perfect encapsulation of what OHF is – everyone coming together to make something beautiful out of very little.

Lunchtime had a special buzz to it, with chocolates and cookies being given out along with the chicken and rice, and the cries of Merry Christmas really erupted as I replied “Tashakoor! No shay jan!” (Thank you, enjoy your food, in Farsi)

Music floated through the air everywhere, games were played around many dinner tables, and the food portions were that bit bigger – “We’ll all get fat!” said one member of the kitchen team, “That is exactly what Christmas is about,” I assured her. The whole day was, in fact, just a giant version of what Christmas is all about – giving, sharing, dancing, being merry, forgetting your troubles just for a day, and, of course, eating.

Christmas Day reminded us that although many of us - helpers, visitors and volunteers - don’t have our families with us right now, we’ve got this awesome second family – this One Happy Family.

#MeetTheFamily: Sweis

Today’s Meet the family is about our wonderful, inspiring and very smart Sweis!
Sweis came to One Happy Family for the first time in July, as a swimming class student of our partner organisation Yoga and Sport. Back then she learned English in Mytilini but soon joined our helpers as a security team member. The kids in the food line – and all of us – miss her a lot in this task, that’s why she sometimes joins in again. But officially Sweis is now, since October, part of our amazing kitchen team. She also regularly joins the yoga classes and basketball games, and goes every day to our helpers English class in the afternoon after we close for our visitors. She is also responsible for our bus shuttles and masters all of her tasks amazingly and always with a smile!
This is Sweis message: Don’t waste your time, there is no age limit for learning! My first reason to come to OHF was to learn. I wanted to join the swimming classes. Here I saw that I could do everything together: swimming, learning... and soon I started volunteering here. Working and learning at the same time is possible at OHF – this is the most beautiful thing! And, by helping at this place, I can help people and draw a smile in their faces. I’m happy here, because if I stayed at home, I would think too much and wouldn’t learn new things. I know that time is precious and I want to use it.
Her wish: I would love to one day become a flight attendant to discover the world and continue learning.
Imagine, Sweis arrived on Lesvos in summer 2018 and didn’t speak a word of English. And here she is today – willing to learn so much and impressing us everyday!
We are so proud to know you Sweis, you are amazing! We sincerely believe that you will make your wish happen!
Content: Melissa Silver, India Ashworth, Jael Tobler
Date: 29.12.2019
One Happy Family | https://ohf-lesvos-org | info@ohf-lesvos.org | @ohflesvos
CH23 0079 0016 9736 1524 7 (CHF) | CH36 0079 0016 9737 1172 2 (EUR)
CH-3400 Burgdorf, Switzerland
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