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13 Oct

“I hope that OHF will be able to continue having this wonderful spirit!”

Rebekka has been with OHF for the last four months: After starting at the playground she joined the school after one week and “never left”. ☺ 

And Rebekka made an huge impact in the Adult School – thank you Rebekka for all of your heart and soul leaded actions that you let us participate in & a big thank you for being who you are!

This is my most memorable moment:

I have some nice moments. The first was the African culture day because I felt like a visitor that day – I could just enjoy myself. I talked to all the people, like for example with my students, we were all just dancing and talking. It was very nice to experience OHF like this. 

All of my other great moments are from being in the school: to teach different English levels was really nice. We had a lot of fun and I enjoyed every single day. We had good talks in English and they also tried to teach me Farsi, which was most of the time funnier for my students than for me!

Also the work with Abdul and Aien, the school directors, was very nice. Supporting them in their work was very important to me and they do such a good job. I learned a lot from them and I hope they learnt something from me as well. 

There are special moments every day, today was with my women only class. When we started the class, they didn’t even know their ABC’s and now they can hold a conversation in English. This is very amazing!

The best part is that I’m still in contact with a lot of my old students and to see their progress makes me really proud!

This struck me the most:

To come here and to see the situation for the people here. To not only hear it via the news, but to hear the individual and really dramatic stories – not always easy to handle but this struck me. Or sometimes you feel exhausted – everything here can be really intense and I had some doubts or not feeling useful. But this place and the people can give you also a lot of power to continue. And I mean if they can… 

One Happy Family is…

A great place and a great opportunity for all the people from the communities to forget about their hard lives and struggles in Moria. OHF tries to provide a nice, friendly atmosphere for everybody – it’s a nice happy bubble where you can just dive in and forget the rest. 

This is what I would like to tell other people:

It’s an amazing experience to volunteer here – it makes you happy and sad at the same time. It makes you happy because you can see that you can offer some help and give joyful moments to a lot of people and it makes you sad as well because you, as a white privileged person, just come here to volunteer and at one point you can leave – this is for me feels so unfair because the other people are stuck. 

But all in all, it was a great opportunity to get to know myself better and it made me think about what is really important in life. 

My tasks in One Happy Family are…

I supported the school directors, I was their right hand. I supported them with all of the daily struggles that we have, getting an overview and some structure for over 300 students. We try to give each student a place in the school and make them feel welcomed. And also, to empower the teachers and build a good team spirit – I was also always learning myself. 

What motivated you to stay long term and why do you think it is important that volunteers stay for a long time?

I extended my stay three times – just because of the relationship I had with the school, with the team in the school and with the students – people who come everyday, walking for an hour just to be in my class – that is an incredible feeling. So, it was definitely the school that motivated me to extend and extend. ☺ 

Also, if you stay long term, you can get to know the people and volunteers better – you can build really good friendships. 

I think it’s important to stay for a long time because if you stay shorter you will have a nice first impression but you don’t really see the whole picture and maybe you don’t really feel part of the centre completely or that you have much responsibility. You see the needs when you stay longer, I wouldn’t go back to Germany if I didn’t have to start my studies now. 

I will miss this place and I hope that it will be able to continue having this wonderful spirit. Every single person here is doing a great job! 

If you want to apply to be a volunteer you can find more information on our website: www.ohf-lesvos.org/volunteer 

07 Oct

“OHF’s goal: reactivate people’s strengths and their desire for joy”

After volunteering with us for around 2.5 months, we had to say goodbye to our most motivated kitchen supporter – Anton!

Anton, who will start studying “Geography of Africa” now, will be very deeply missed at OHF!

This is my most memorable moment:

I can’t think of only one moment, because most of the moments are memorable in a way. So is the organic dynamic of an usual day at OHF, people know how to act and react and  everybody contributes something to the place, but the place as well provides to everybody – this dynamic is felt in most of the memorable moments at OHF.

This struck me:

The hard contrast between the people from the communities and us as volunteers. Not sharing the same conditions makes it hard to work together in an insightful way. Sharing same perspectives would be very important for this place but it wasn’t always easy to focus on what we have in common with all the people at the Centre. Sometimes you define the relations here by the differences and not by the similarities.

One Happy Family is…

A very colourful and crazy place. Crazy in a good way 🙂

OHF is providing a very meaningful environment for the people, an environment that allows everyone to socialize in a peaceful way, to engage in activities, to feel ownership and to escape this horrific “vacuum” they have to live in in the camps. And also for international volunteers it is a very suitable platform to engage in this weird situation for people being stuck on the islands. The ease and happiness occurring on people’s faces after having them at OHF for only few days make their situation bearable to a degree accomplished by themselves. I assume that’s where to find OHF’s goal: reactivate people’s strengths and their desire for joy. Hard to achieve but facilitated for many people.

This is what I would like to say:

Don’t hesitate to be friendly and greet people with a smile. For many people, like those who have to live on this island, it means much more than just a gesture. Welcoming them wherever they are sounds big but can be done in small things and that’s where we should find ourselves involved in people’s struggle of being homeless in hostile conditions. Many of them went through a traumatizing past, live in an unbearable present and so they deserve any better for those years coming. And as far as I can see Lesvos and its camps are anything but the right place for all the families, children, women and men living there and watching their future passing!

My tasks in One Happy Family are…

Being the most motivated kitchen support! 🙂 No, I’m kidding. My main task is being an English teacher in the Adult school as well as for the Helpers English classes in the evening. Besides teaching I jump in wherever needed.

What do you think makes One Happy Family different from other similar organizations?

Of course the motto of working with the people instead of for the people must be an immediate idea after seeing how the asylum seekers are forced to live. Many people are given the opportunity to work at OHF and they are the ones providing such a diverse range of activities, providing food for so many people and even education in terms of teaching English. Most of us are aware that many cultures, background and stories that are not only compatible encounter at OHF. The challenge of enabling people to continue living their lives with their cultural backgrounds and allowing them at the same time to escape their current situation and the past in their home countries is totally faced and in 99% embraced.

What motivated you to stay longterm and why do you think it is important that volunteers stay for a long time?

I wouldn’t have liked to come for only three weeks because after four weeks I started feeling the place, I began hating and loving the place – I was then on an emotional level which is one of my personal prerequisites for such work. For me it was very important to stay longer because I wouldn’t like to do “volunteering with refugees” as a stopover thing. Paying respect to this situation and the people means, in my opinion, as well to offer time. And it came through that I personally could achieve much more in a longer time.