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14 Jun

‘Try to imagine how it feels to be a refugee’

Soa Krummenacher

She wanted to travel, but she could not decide where to go. A documentary about Moria made her decide to go to Lesvos. ‘It was not a problem, but the fact that I had so many opportunities in my life stressed me out. What if I didn’t make the right choice? After seeing the situation in Moria, I was sure I wanted to do something for other people instead of for myself.’

‘Volunteering in One Happy Family has been great. I met a lot of amazing people and got to know different and new cultures. The most special thing was that all these different people could get along with each other so well. This community center really is a family.’

I came to Lesvos, because …
'I knew that there were refugees in Lesvos, but I didn’t hear much about it in the media. I wondered if there was still a crises going on. Now that I have been there, I know how bad the situation is. And that there really is a big, humanitarian crises in Greece.’

My tasks in One Happy Family, were …
‘Driving the shuttle, painting and coloring at the art table and working at the bank. Especially driving the car was fun. Most of the times it felt like a big party, with nice music and good vibes. Working at the bank was sometimes difficult, because the people wanted more drachma then we gave them. I understood them. They have lost everything. It was hard for me to say no to them, but I had to. Otherwise I wasn’t able to do my work properly.’

One Happy Family is …
‘A place where people really care about each .The atmosphere is so friendly and warm. I haven’t been in Moria, but I hear it is so horrible. One Happy Family is a place where the people can get away from this, even if it’s just for a short time. They can drink coffee or play some games. They are able do things to free their mind for a while. In my opinion this is very needed.’

This struck me the most
‘Like everyone else, I sometimes read about the horrifying things that are happening in countries that are in war. Even though it is heartbreaking, I still find it difficult to really feel what these people are going through. When I was in Lesvos, a boy told me his pregnant sister got killed by a bomb in front of his house. This confronted me with the reality. I really felt his pain. And I realized that this is happening to so many people. It really touched my heart.’

What I’d like to tell other people …
‘It is hard for me to exactly know how the refugees feel. I did not leave my country. I still have all of my family members with me. I can leave this island. I am free. These people have gone through hell and they are still in it. I think it is important that people try to imagine how this feels. Try to think about it, and ask yourself the question; how would this be for me? Maybe people will empathize more with refugees in this way.’

Age: 23

Country: Switzerland

Occupation: psychology student

Stay: 15 March - 5 April

06 Jun

‘I am confronted with the reality now’

Brigitte Fredriksen

As an English teacher, Brigitte Fredriksen decided she wanted to use her education skills somewhere else. Her experience in One Happy Family has moved her and opened her eyes.

‘The people I’ve met in the community center are so open, friendly and welcoming. The daily life of the refugees is so different from mine, but still I was able to relate to them. It was a very intense experience, but also so valuable.

I decided to go to Lesvos, because …
‘I wanted to learn more about the situation there. First, I was thinking to work with refugees in Libanon. But then I realized that there are also a lot of refugees in Europe. The fact that we have refugee crisis here is interesting. I felt like I needed to help, since I am a citizen of this part of the world. I wanted to do something meaningful. But I also wanted to see if the crisis was still going on. Unfortunately, I now know it is.

What were your expectations of One Happy Family?
Before I left to Lesvos, I read a lot of information about this community center on the internet. The philosophy of this organization - not for the people but with them - really appealed to me. I believe humanitarian aid is not only about helping, but also about empowering. I was hoping to see this in One Happy Family. And luckily I did. This is a really vibrant community, where refugees are given the chance to use their qualities. It makes them feel human again.’

My task in One Happy Family was …
‘Teaching English to adults. This was interesting. Back home, I am very strict during my lessons. But here I had to be more flexibel. The people have to walk one hour to visit this place. When they were late for classes, I decided to let them in. This is something I wouldn’t do in Norway.

Although it was sometimes difficult to explain certain things, all the people were really motivated to learn. There are many people with different language backgrounds and some of them are not educated. But still, I did not had to stimulate them myself. This was wonderful to see. ’

What struck me the most was …
People telling me how they cannot sleep at night. I wonder how long it will take before they go mad. It also got to me that I was not able to do anything about this situation. Imagine how the people themselves feel. This is one of the many reasons why there is such a need for a place like One Happy Family. The people can relax a bit and enjoy themselves.’

What I would like to tell other people …
At this moment, lives are being destroyed. This crisis is still going on. And the fact that this is happening in Europe, is mind-blowing. The way we treat refugees is not according to the human rights. The politicians have made a major mistake.’

I am confronted with the reality now. You can think, talk and reason about this crisis. But when you meet the people and feel their pain, you feel the obligation to do something. When I am back in Norway, I will start raising awareness about the situation in Lesvos. It’s impossible for me to accept this any longer.’

Age: 43

Country: Norway

Occupation: teacher

Stay: March 18 - April 1