‘Sometimes a Mandala can save a life’

Dilan Siper

I came to Lesvos, because …
‘A feeling of powerlessness overwhelmed me. I am active in a left-wing student group, but because of my study I didn’t have a lot of time to focus on it. Added to this, political work is very frustrating. You put so much effort in it, but you barely see any results. I was at a point that I wanted to work somewhere where I could see the effects of the work I do. I contacted a German organization and they connected me to One Happy Family.’

My tasks in One Happy Family were …
‘Working at the boutique, giving out drachma’s at the bank and organizing the art table and other activities. The visitors really need to be occupied. Especially the art table was surprisingly succesful. Many adults – which were also men –  enjoyed it.

I learned here that, when you are in so much pain, a simple Mandala can bring you so much. The visitors might not like to draw one if they had a normal, stable life. But in this situation they are looking for distraction. They want to be focussed on something else, rather than thinking about the situation they are in. I never realized as much as here, that the little things are the most important. Sometimes a Mandela can safe a life.

My experience in the community center was …
‘Intense.This community center is a happy bubble. At the beginning this felt wrong, because it is not the reality. I sometimes asked myself what I was doing here. I wasn’t changing anything about the situation. But I came back from this. I realized that these people need a place to forget the reality. And if that is just for six hours, than thats’ ok. Changing the little moments, are as important as changing the big situation.

All of my friends have asked me about my experience here. It is hard to answer their question, because it’s a feeling and not something rational. I knew about the situation before I came here. But it feels different now. It is like reading the newspaper. You know what has happened to someone, but you don’t know the person.  Now I know these people, with their personality and the look in their eyes. They are human beings now. Not just names.’

This struck me the most …
All of the stories I heard were horrible. But what struck me the most, was when someone was thinking about their future. The past is also hard, but it has ended. Their future still has to come and it is already terrible. You can’t tell them everything will be fine, because you don’t know this. Everything is uncertain and that is awful.

What I would like to tell to other people …
I would like to tell  people that they should try to do something about the refugee crises in their own country. Because that is were you can make the biggest change. If you have the ability to visit this island, you should. The feeling that this experience gives you is so important. It makes the difference.’

Age: 23

Country: Germany

Occupation: psychology student

Stay: 21 march – 30 april