21 May

‘One Happy Family teaches you how to be kinder’

Giulia Berti

She wanted to go to Lesvos before, but her family told her not to. It was a friend of Giulia Berti (25) who told her about One Happy Family and made her decide to volunteer at the community center. ‘My family thought it would be too dangerous to work here. But when my friend told me about his experience, I just knew had to go.’

‘What I’ve learned here, is that it is so important to create a place where people feel safe. You always think that people who suffer need clothes, money and food. But we forget about the importance of the mental condition. One Happy Family takes care of this. And that is so important.’

This is the reason I came to Lesvos …
‘A friend of mine who volunteered in One Happy Family told me about his experience. He told me about the situation in Moria and how horrifying it was. But he also said that, despite this, he was able to make people smile when he worked in the community center.

I decided to contact the coordination team of One Happy Family to get more information. It felt safe. I trusted my friend and the people who are volunteering in the center. Then I decided I just had to go.’

My tasks at One Happy Family, were …
‘Working in the cafe, boutique and kitchen. At the beginning I found it difficult to tell the people to respect the rules we have here. That they cannot have more food than other persons, for example. But after a while I realized I had to tell them. In Moria they don’t have rules. The people are treated bad over there. It is the responsibility of the volunteers to show them that this is not the case in One Happy Family.’

One of my most memorable moments during my volunteer ship, was when we were serving food. We were all singing and dancing. It wasn’t just about distributing meals. It was about giving them a good time and enjoying the moment. It brought tears to my eyes.’

My experience in One Happy Family was …
Special and emotional. I thought I would come here to help the people. But now I feel my stay here is a gift to me, not to them. The contact I had with the people here is different from the contact I have with the people in Germany. It is more true, more authentic. They are so friendly, even though they are in a situation where other people would go crazy. They are all so strong.

I had the expectation that I would have to do a lot of physical work. But in the end, I wasn’t needed for this. The people from Moria who work here want to do it themselves. And that is amazing. They have a task. This gives them strength and self confidence.’

One Happy Family is …
‘A place to have a break from the cruel reality. A place where you can meet your friends and have a good talk. In here, the people are not alone. It’s really a community. It also prepares you for the normal life, how it should be. Unlike Moria, were the people are treated like animals.’

This is what I would like to tell other people …
‘I would recommend everybody to come to One Happy Family. Not only to help the refugees, but also for themselves. We should be kinder to each other. That is what you can learn in this place. It was the best decision I’ve made this year to visit this place. The connection you make with the people is real. I will come back for sure.’

Age: 25

Country: Germany

Occupation: studying

Stay: 24 March - 6 April


16 May

‘One Happy Family: a home for the people who need it’

Sam Salih

Sam Salih fled his country from war five years ago. He stayed for two months in Greece, travelled to Italy and eventually was able to get to Germany. Now he finally is in safety, he decided to commit his life to helping others who are stuck in Greece. This is his fourth time to volunteer at One Happy Family.

‘More than 9000 refugees are stuck on Lesvos. I know their suffering. It would be easier for me to forget what I've been through. But I don’t want to banish my past from my thoughts. It gives me the power to help others that are in the same situation I was.’

I decided to come to Lesvos, because …
‘Life is not fair. A lot of people don’t care about the people who are in need. The ones who suffer don’t have any power or rights. They need people to fight for them.

You get further in life, because other people decide to help you. The same goes for me. I have a stable life now. And I own it to the people who chose to lend me a helping hand.’

I keep coming back, because …
‘I was not born to just live for myself. I could use my free time to have fun. But I already have everything that makes me happy. I have a job, I have an apartment and I earn enough money. My life is stable. Why shouldn’t I try to accomplish the same for others? When I’m older, and I won’t be able to volunteer anymore, I will be happy that I’ve used my time helping others.’

One Happy Family is …
‘A home for the people who need it. This organization provides a daily program for more than five hundred people everyday. People can enjoy their time and use the qualities they have. This is good, because it means they are busy with something positive.

The visitors can go to school, get a haircut or talk with their friends while they are enjoying a cup of tea. The support they get here gives them hope. What is going on in this island is horrible. For this, life in One Happy Family is not the reality. But it is a reality that can make the people stable for now.’

You always have small goals and big dreams in life. Refugees are able to achieve their small goals here, while they are waiting for their big dream to come true. Which is to go of this island and be free.’

My message to refugees…
Visit one One Happy Family. This place gives you the opportunity to use your qualities or to practice your hobbies. It keeps you busy. It will free your mind for a while. When I arrived in Germany, I did not know anyone. A football club then welcomed me in their team. I went there several times a week and it made me forget about my problems. One Happy Family works exactly like this. They support you and keep you positive. It is a big family who’s door is open for everyone.

Age: 30

Country: Germany

Occupation: security

Stay: 1 March - 1 April

10 May

‘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


02 May

‘Volunteering in One Happy Family has become an addiction’

Fanny from Switzerland

One Happy Family still had to be built, when Fanny Oppler came here for the first time.This was more than a year ago. In March this year, she visited the center for the third time. ‘When I arrived here one year ago, I did a lot of construction work. I painted the walls and shoveled the ground. The center opened two days after I left. In September I came back to see the result. Volunteering in One Happy Family has become an addiction since then.’

My task at One Happy Family was …
‘To work at the bank. The system they have invented for this is great. The visitors get two ‘drachma’ everyday. They can get several things with this. A cup of tea, a haircut, or clothes at the boutique. They chose however they want to spent the drachma. I like the idea of a basic income. The fact that they are responsible for their expenses is also a good thing. It gives them a feeling of independency again.

The atmosphere at One Happy Family is good. But we do need some extra support when the bank opens. Some people are not willing to stand in line or they argue with you because they need more drachma. This may sound absurd, but imagine how desperate these people are to fight over a ticket. Luckily, this doesn’t happen a lot. The people are managing. They are so strong.’

I keep coming back, because …
‘The persons i've met here are amazing. Especially the people from Moria who work in the community center. They work so hard. It’s them that keeps this place running. One Happy Family is their place. The volunteers just support them.

The team working in the kitchen illustrates how much they love the community center. They are cooking for more than six hundred people in just two pots on the ground. It is amazing. Just like them, many people in this place are so talented. It is such a shame that they are stuck on this island.’

What struck me the most, was …
The system of the asylum seekers. It is so random. Some people from Syria get the blue stamp, while others from this country get rejected. There is just no logic. And they decide over human lives with this randomness. It is awful.’

My wish for refugees is …
‘That the war stops so they can go back to their country. Because that is what most of them want. They don’t want to stay in Europe. I hope the madness of this island will stop soon. And that the situation in Moria will change. So many boats are arriving in Lesvos. I can’t imagine how all these people will live there. It is going to be a war zone. Politicians all over Europe should act. They have to do something about it.’

Fanny Oppler

Age: 27

Country: Switzerland

Occupation: graphic designer

Stay: 1 march - 1 april

01 Aug

A unique and a safe haven for a lot of people

Thoughts of Jael To and Noemi Fricker, two of our One Happy Family Volunteers, after working with One Happy Family for a couple of days.

The media seems to have forgotten about the reality that thousands are still fleeing war zones… People are still coming almost daily to Lesvos and other Greek Islands with inflatable boats – searching for a safe place to live in peace… There are still smaller, private funded NGOs and grassroots organizations helping these newly arrived people at the beach. People are still deported to Turkey and still, we get informations about illegal pushbacks by the coastguard – even if everyone is aware of the bad conditions for refugees in Turkey.

After arriving on the island, people have to live for the first month in Moria Refugee Camp. Families may be granted to live somewhere else, while many single men and women are stuck. Moria Camp, a former prison built for 500 criminals, then extended for up to 2’000 people, now holds about 3’200 people fleeing from terrible conditions in their home countries. Children are seeking a place to stay, a place to learn, a place to laugh. Women are risking everything for a better future for their children, wanting to be able to provide their children a safe place to grow up and themselves a place to live in peace. Men try to forget about the suffering back home. All are seeking a life where human rights are respected.

“If I don’t witness it, if I don’t try to see the whole picture, if I don’t build an opinion, if I don’t act when things go totally wrong – I would be ashamed of myself.”

These people demand to be known. They demand that we share our knowledge about their situation. They demand to be treated in a way that one would treat their family and friends. The One Happy Family – Community Center provides a safe place where beneficiaries can spend their time and get back some self determination. This Community Center is so special since it’s not made and run for the refugees but it works together with them. It provides a room to be just a human being and not primarily a refugee. It provides a safe place where everyone can develop his or her own ideas, where you can sit quietly and have a coffee if you wish for it and where people from all kind of backgrounds gather together.

It is unique and a safe haven for a lot of people, but this project needs your support:

Donate, if you think that these people fleeing from war deserve to have a safe space outside of the camps and get their basic needs such as clothes, food, and a strong community.

14 Jul

Happy people do good things

„Happy people do good things“ – as simple as it is, that’s what I’ve learned at the OHF. And it is a challenge to spread happiness in a context where crimes against humanity caused by the European closed-doors policy become the most visible. Deportations, inhuman conditions in the camps, a lack of perspective – all these EU-constructions are not what people should be confronted with after having experienced war and violence. The more important it gets to have a kind of „safe haven“ while being stuck and forced to wait, an open space to come together, meet friends, laugh and relax. And the OHF shows how it works: solidarity, diversity and tolerance in practice, not for but with each other, at eye-level.

The OHF is a role-model for what large parts of the European affluent society should put into practice urgently, by opening a space where human values are upheld and that allows expression as well as potential and resources to unfold – as far as possible in the context of a humanitarian crisis. You rock!