28 Dec

One Happy Family “gives a piece of normality back”

A primary school teacher that takes a one year break to discover different things and then came to us, this is Barla, our amazing, funny, positive, smart, always smiling friend! Since she’s a teacher she mainly taught in the Adult school but was also always there for any other daily tasks that we needed her for.

Thank you Barla, for being such a heart-person and sharing your volunteer story.

This is my most memorable moment:

The most memorable moment was when I saw the first time this very long food line. Men, women and children were all standing in a different line. So many people waiting for food and in the same time you can feel this good atmosphere, hear the music from the kitchen and smell the nice food. This was my favourite and most memorable moment during one of my first days at One Happy Family.

This was the most challenging for me:

There were some weird situations when I had to act like a policewoman. You are asking the people in the line, if they have already eaten. Just to make sure that there is enough food for everybody and nobody eats two times. This made me feel weird, even when I knew, it has to be fair for everybody and that’s why we need to say no.

One Happy Family is…

a positive bubble with happy people. And happy people make good things, right?

Of course it is much more. First of all, the place gives the people on the island a daily structure and (through good organization and happy vibes) calmness. It gives a piece of normality back, which is very important. One Happy Family treats the people humanely and shows them new options for everyday life on the island.

This is what I would like to tell other people:

It is a very special and unique place. It feels almost unreal to be with so many people from all over the world on the same place somewhere in Greece. Time and place get lost while you are there, which is very nice. You are totally living in the moment.

My tasks in One Happy Family are…

I was an English teacher and taught for almost 8 weeks. I had a Level 2 class and also an ABC-women class. It was nice to get this connection with my students and also a possibility to get to know people better. Besides learning a lot, we had a lot of fun in our classes.

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

I think what makes OHF different and unique is the drachmasystem. The visitors have to come regularly, to collect the drachmas. With the drachmas they have options to buy warm drinks or new soaps. Also to get a new haircut. It is more like in the reality, you have to make an effort to earn something. This is how it works at OHF. And the system works very well. The community Centre is different from other organizations, because it is not FOR the people, but it is WITH people in their asylum procedures, which makes the project more sustainable.

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

In the first weeks you only feel overwhelmed of everything. Many noises, many visitors and volunteers with many different languages and stories. It is a lot.

I noticed how enriching it is to have more time and become familiar with the place and the people.

After a couple of weeks, you know how everything works and you become more and more like a family member. This is a deep experience, that I would never want to miss in my life.

And then Barla adds…

I miss the place so much- you can feel all the warmhearted people, who fight for this positive Community Centre every day and it is so important to have all of you for making this project as nice as it is.

16 Dec

“The role that OHF plays within the greater context of Lesvos and activism on the island is invaluable.”

Today you’ll meet our spicy fermented sauce inventor – Sam!

Sam has been first with our partner Better days and was for everyone “Garden Sam”! But then, he decided to join our kitchen team where he spends most of his days at OHF now: preparing food, inventing spicy sauce, speaking with Fifie about sustainability and ways of improvement, discussing ideas for new recipes and – as well – organises our cleaning cupboard and supports like this sustainability at OHF.

We’re very happy to have Sam as part of our team and even happier to share his volunteer story today with you.

Thank you, Sam for everything but most importantly for having a very huge and wonderful heart and for being part of this One happy-crazy-singing-dancing-smiling-amazing family!

This is my most memorable moment:

There are truly so many beautiful moments on a daily basis in OHF that it isn’t easy to pinpoint a specific instance, however one memory that will stay with me for some time is that of making falafel with the kitchen team in lieu of the tradition helper/volunteer breakfast. It was a rather clandestine operation if I’m being honest. With some coordination and much collusion, we were able to borrow the van the night prior, soak dried chickpeas and blend tahini without suspicion. Arriving to OHF shortly after the sunrise, watching the first moments of the day from arguably one of the most beautiful vantage points in the center, hurrying to make sure everything was perfect and as tasty as possible was one of the most remarkable moments for me and my time in OHF (well, second after tasting the falafel).

This struck me the most:

What has really taken me aback in the context of this project in its entirety – from the daily interactions with which I am privileged, to the wonderful colleagues with whom I work alongside, as well as the unique setting  – resides in the feeling of inclusivity and love. From dancing shamame and evening English courses, to bike repair, computer courses and pottery workshops, there has yet to be a moment of exclusionary comportment. The privilege I have for such emotions is extraordinary and is held dear to my heart.

One Happy Family is…

A space built from necessity and incessantly transforming itself and others in serendipitous splendor.

 This is what I would like to tell other people:

Allow yourself to love and be loved and remain present through each action.

My tasks in One Happy Family are…

My tasks in One Happy Family revolve principally around food and hygiene. I am volunteering as kitchen support and have recently been appointed the task of hygiene manager. Through food I am best able to communicate intention, hence spending my days in the cornerstone of OHF is where I feel best.

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

What makes OHF different from other organizations with similar intention is its nuance. Overlooking Turkey’s Western coastline, there is a strong sense of borders and their implications. Oriented rather longitudinally, OHF, when walked from one end to the other, requires you to pass by the same individuals with great frequency, facilitating conversations, pleasant glances and warm handshakes. Additionally, the kitchen lies more or less central to the greater space and most volunteers and visitors will at some point in the day visit to say hello, rooted in feelings of curiosity and/or hunger — both of which are immensely welcome.

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

I am indeed a long term volunteer. I have been volunteering in/around OHF for just about five months now, and I am more than content with this decision. During my time in the community space, I have had many hellos andgoodbyes, it’s the nature of volunteering in this context. For nearly all the refugees on the island, this is also a reoccurring facet of their lived experience. Staying for a longer duration allows for trust to root itself in relationships and experiences, and I have found so much beauty watching these rapports grow and grow.

And Sam added: 

The role that OHF plays within the greater context of Lesvos and activism on the island is invaluable. I feel happy and grateful to had the experience to watch this space and myself grow in unison.

04 Dec

“I’m struck by the strength of human kind; OHF visitors and helpers are admirable and they are forever my heroes!”

Sandrine, our dear friend from Canada!

You arrived at One Happy Family and – since the very first moments – you were completely part of it. It was impressive to see how quickly you had a very good overview of what is happening on this Island. You were always around, and – even if we had to ask you for the thousands time to pay a bill – always had a smile for everyone. No task was too small for you, you always jumped in wherever needed.

At the same time, you took your time to sit down with us if you had questions running around your head and you were just such an important part – for all the helpers, volunteers but also for our coordination team.

It’s been a real pleasure getting to know you, dear Sandrine, your heart touched our souls – you’ll be – forever – part of this family! Thank you & Merci (of course in our best Quebecois accent 🙂 )!

Read about Sandrines stay at OHF in her Volunteer Story:

To me, OHF is…

An extraordinary place to be with open doors to every cultures, genders, ages and differences. It is truly a happy family caring for one another while providing a safe environment for everyone to find some peace and dignity. And oh! some fun too! OHF is a wonderful example of doing so much with so little. I am very proud to be part of this family.

My tasks in OHF are…

What I do at OHF is a variety of little tasks to which I sign up for every morning, that goes from playing with the kids, greeting and registering visitors at our ‘’bank’’, cleaning and picking up trash in and around the site, etc. And, as simple as they seem, I find myself finding meaning and satisfaction in these tasks as I have come to witness that every small action does count in the end. Of course, smiling has also been my number one task as it seems to do well and one gets so much back from it!

As a long term volunteer, I am also given some more responsibilities, so I get to handle treasury or « the wallet » which gives me a sneak peek into OHF daily costs and a better understanding of its operations as an organization. I’m very humbled by their trust and can’t help but being very serious when doing it!

Doing certificates and CVs for refugee volunteers is also a task that occupies me during the week and that I take great care of, in order to help them be prepared for their future life. I feel privileged in taking part in those many little duties which make every day go by way too fast!

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

Staying long term allowed me, amongst other things, to start recognizing visitors and be able to greet more and more people by their names which made all this feel like a more familiar place to be. After all, it’s called One Happy Family!

My most memorable moment:

My most memorable moment is actually repeating itself every single day at that very moment when we’re all gathered together for lunch. I look around and only then do I realize that again about 1000 people walked the extra miles to eat that amazing food the kitchen team cook. Adding to it I get to practice my Persian or Arabic greetings while serving the plates to then receive hundreds of thank you and smiles, or laughs at my pronunciation! It’s a great moment to be all together.

This struck me the most:

How strong human beings can be. Every day I witness how our visitors are incredible, given such harsh conditions they live in, with Moria being now at about 16 800 people with a capacity of 2800… That said, they find somehow a way to smile and be positive, they are patient and kind to us volunteering in a sometimes clumsy way! I’m struck by the strength of human kind; OHF visitors and helpers are admirable and they are forever my heroes!

And Sandrine adds…

As my work here is coming to an end and I am about to leave this wonderful place, I reflect upon it all and realize how little we all need in life: security, food, health and a good shelter with people we love is what every human being deserve to have. There are 70 millions of refugees in the world today and 50% of them are children… I can only hope wonderful organizations like OHF continue doing their incredible work because they do help the world be a better place.

Tashakur! Shukran! Merci One Happy Family!