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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.

16 Sep

“With them instead of for them (…) In my opinion this works perfectly – it IS possible!”

Ramo – a happy, positive minded teacher and barber shop manager – but also a dancer, cleaner (yes, we know that dish washing wasn’t your favourite daily task) and on his last day he even joined our security team!

In total Ramo stayed with us for around 2 months – but it felt like he’s been with OHF a lot longer. Thank you Ramo for being such a good support and for all of your energy!

Get an insight into Ramo’s volunteering experience at OHF with the following interview made during the end of his stay at our Community Centre:

This is my most memorable moment:

There are many, one of them happened just yesterday. I’m currently helping in the adult school as an English teacher, but my students didn’t know that I will be leaving in two weeks. Yesterday I told them that I’ll be leaving when they asked me about the registration for the next class. There was a family, they’re all students, but it’s a family: a mother and two daughters, they cried because they wanted me to be their teacher for the next level. I felt like I will be leaving them, I’ve never been a teacher before, but me being here and teaching them English is so important for them. I will never forget this moment.

This struck me the most:

The so called “Life-jacket graveyard”: When I saw this place, I was with 4 other volunteers. We went to see Molyvos and other nice places – quite a touristic weekend but on the way towards Molyvos we wanted to see the view. We then saw the life-jacket graveyard, I hadn’t heard about it before. Seeing all these life-jackets dumped onto hills felt like a huge slap in the face in terms of humanity!

One Happy Family is…

For me its one of the things where the name explains it best. It is seriously One Happy Family! I understood it just recently. I thought a lot about the system with our partners, of how we work with the helpers, of how the food grows in the garden and then we use it for the kitchen. The plastic spoons from lunch are reused for some art and garden projects.  Broken machines from the barber will be brought to the makerspace and they fix it. All of this is One Happy Family, it’s like a life-circle.

This is what I would like to tell other people:

As a volunteer there are many duties when we go back to our homes: not all of them have to be about One Happy Family but I really would like to tell the reality of the so called “refugee crisis” here. There is nothing more on the media and yet they are thousands of people seeking asylum here, living in one of the worst refugee camps in the world. I heard about Lesvos and Moria before my stay here, but I had no idea how bad the situation really is.

We will have a special presentation on our faculty at university because this is my internship, so I will use this presentation to explain to others:

I will explain the system of OHF, how it functions: “MIT ihnen statt für Sie, with them instead of for them” – I want to explain this system. In my opinion this works perfectly – it IS possible! So this model could be applied elsewhere where migration and immigration are a topic.

My tasks in One Happy Family are…

The first three weeks I did only daily tasks, I liked the bank a lot. They offered me then to teach in the adult school and we reopened the helpers English classes. I’m thus mainly busy with the school. Between this time I try to help with the other tasks: I like the bank, so I do it as well.

I’m also serving food for the kids – It’s easy and fun for me.

I also now have the responsibility for the barber shop: so I’m in close contact with our barbers.

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

Working WITH the people, but this is maybe the most common answer.

It’s an NGO working with many partners on one place. I can imagine that this is very challenging: working with many but not having conflicts. It’s amazing how it functions!

And working with 65 helpers at the moment, they take their jobs very seriously and they know their work so well. This willingness of the helpers, to improve and to produce something impresses me as well. Also the visitors, this connection between volunteers, helpers and visitors: people take care of the place of OHF, they want it. I see many visitors taking care of the place: helping with cleaning etc.

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

Long-term volunteers take over more responsibilities: for example if the teacher changes every two weeks the students will be confused. It depends on the tasks, the daily tasks can be done as well by short termers, but there are many tasks that need more responsibility.

You can make the place better than before only with the long-term volunteers. And you’ll understand everything much better than the short termers, you’ll know as well the short cuts for many things, which makes you more helpful for the organization. 🙂

And Ramo added… 

It’s gonna be probably one of the unique experiences in my life, even though I used to live in a refugee environment almost all my life. I wasn’t expecting to have such an amazing experience where I learned a lot, I’m very grateful for this.

I saw the migration crisis with my own eyes now.,plus in addition I could do it in an NGO that makes this experience much more valuable. Thanks to EVERYONE!

02 Sep

“The cooperation between volunteers and helpers is one of the things that makes OHF unique.”

Melanie, 25 from Switzerland, student of Social Work, volunteered at One Happy Family for nine weeks.

Thank you Melanie for all your energy, happiness and your support!

This is my most memorable moment:

This is a question I can’t really answer. Every day is in its own way very exciting and interesting. It’s the daily encounters with all the different people that enrich each single day very much.

This struck me the most:

The whole situation on Lesvos. It’s different to see and feel the precarious situation of the people stuck on the island and forced to live here with your own eyes.

One Happy Family is…

A beautiful, safe and familiar place where everyone can meet at eye level and spend time together. The various subprojects offer the opportunity to be together and escape from the daily life in the refugee camp.

This is what I would like to tell other people:

The situation is difficult to describe because it’s very complex. However, I think that it’s important to know and realize that each small contribution from every single person counts.

My tasks in One Happy Family are…

I was active in many different tasks. Most of the time I was in the café or in the bank. I liked these two tasks very much, because I was in contact with many different visitors and sometimes I even had some time for a chat.
Besides the daily tasks I was responsible for the registration of the volunteers at the Municipality. Therefore I passed by the Municipality several times a week and got to knew the Greek way of dealing with administration. 

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

For me, the cooperation between volunteers and helpers is one of the things that makes OHF unique. The different subprojects are managed jointly by the volunteers and helpers. In addition, the internal currency gives the visitors back a piece of self-determination.

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

Understanding certain contexts or processes takes some time. I am therefore glad that I was here at OHF for a longer period of time. After a few weeks I had a rough overview and was able to get involved in a different, more intense way.

22 Jul

One Happy Family sees everyone and recognizes individuality and tries to give as much support as possible

Sophia, 25, Social work student from Germany, volunteering at OHF for 6 months.

This is my most memorable moment:

It is difficult to define one single memorable moment. What makes the experience of being here so memorable to me are the many encounters with people of cultures, thoughts and perceptions of the world that could not be more different, but still share a peaceful and safe space together. I am grateful to got the chance to meet so many people that taught me how easy it can be to unconditionally share, love and care for others.

This struck me the most:

I thought I was informed quite well about the situation on Lesvos before coming here. But after actually arriving and living on the island for some time, I had more insights in what it implies to be stuck on the island as an asylum seeker. It  is the general conditions and what refugees are exposed to, that struck me. Unfair treatment from the government, huge lack of humanitarian aid, racism, fascism, marginalization, and so much more. Knowing many people who are suffering this hardship and being friends with some of them, makes me admire their resilience even more and look forward to never stop engaging in this crisis.

One Happy family is:

The place where people can just have a nice time. It sounds so simple and insignificant, but it is exactly what makes it such an important place. It allows people to forget about problems, to find support and console in the community and to be empowered by responsibilities and any kinds of activities. The name “One Happy Family” is really representative and each member is equally important.

This is what I would like to tell other people

Volunteering in crises does not always mean to be able to help everyone and to be able to solve all problems. Sometimes it is ok, and already a lot to contribute to one happy day for one single person. Many people tend to forget, that it is not about one homogenous group of people the crisis is about, but about thousands and thousands of great personalities with complex stories and many diverse resources. 

My tasks in One Happy Family are

During my time at One Happy Family my tasks switched. From doing daily tasks like working in the Nest, the Café or at the bank, to spending a lot of time in the Womens space organizing special activities, to doing the shift coordination for the volunteers. Tasks of the shift coordination were to welcome and introduce new volunteers, schedule all tasks and activities, distribute the daily tasks and being a mediator and contact person for any kinds of questions and concerns the volunteers had.

AND driving 😀 

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

I think there are many other NGOs on this Island doing great work. Work that is so different to what OHF does, that it is difficult to actually compare it. Special about OHF is the feeling and safety people get, who work here and visit us. OHF sees everyone and recognizes individuality and tries to give as much support as possible.

What motivated you to stay 6 months and why do you think it is important that volunteers stay for a long time?

There are many things I just started to understand after being here for some time. For example issues about the asylum process and what it implies for the many people asking for asylum. But also the intercultural differences that caused some misunderstandings – after a while I had a better understanding for others decisions or actions. This does not mean, that short term volunteers are less helpful. Anyone who is willing to leave their home and come here for a few weeks, is contributing a huge part of OHFs work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

10 Jul

“One Happy Family is a safe bubble”

Jojo, 23, Student in Educational Studies in History, Politics and Sports

My most memorable moment is… 

When we organised the first football tournament and saw that everybody was so happy afterwards.

What struck me the most is… 

How the whole situation is setting up refugees for failure. People lack access to the most basic things they need in their daily life (reliable information, medical help, healthy food, money, English and Greek lessons…). They have to overcome so many obstacles in order to have a safe life.

One Happy Family is…

A safe bubble where people can forget the situation they are in for a moment and relax, learn English or guitar, get a haircut or just chat and learn from each other.

This is what I would like to tell other people:

The situation for many people here is terrible. The idea behind it is that if refugees suffer, they will stop coming. It is not a problem of money as European governments pay billions of euros for military purposes.

My tasks in One Happy Family are…

Organizing the football events, teaching English classes and helping with the daily tasks at our community centre.

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

The work of One Happy Family is special because the centre is mostly run by volunteer refugees. They run the place and international volunteers simply support them.

23 Feb

Refugee story tellers Episode 3: The Change Makers

Khudadad explores how staying active is helping refugees in Moria to stay positive despite living in dire conditions. He talks to four inspirational refugees, Yaya, Amir, Fifi and Ahmad who use their time in Lesvos to help others and improve their lives. Amir, a refugee from Afghanistan, works as a tailor making bags out of life jackets while also learning English and Greek, translating for NGOs and running his own photography website.

“I should be doing more because this is my second chance to build by life. I had my life before but I lost it. Right now I’ve found the safety and possibility to rebuild it again,” he tells Khudadad.

The third episode of Refugee Media Production’s podcast series focuses on the positives of the situation in Lesvos, and encourages young refugees to “use their time and make themselves ready for their futures.”

11 Feb

“OHF tries to create a space where everybody can feel safe and welcome.”

Felix, 26, Airfreight clerk

This is my most memorable moment… 

There are plenty of memorable moments. But the new years eve celebration with all the helpers and their families was fantastic.

This struck me the most… 

The dedication that all the involved people show every day to make this place to what it is.

One Happy Family is… 

A truly special place that brings happiness when needed the most.

This is what I would like to tell other people… 

When you hear about refugees always remind yourself that we are talking about humans just like you and me.

My tasks in One Happy Family are… 

Coordinating the Youth Space, logistics, and helping everywhere else where I’m needed: At the bank and barber shop, in the coffee, washing dishes, being in the kitchen. 

What do you think makes One Happy Family different from other similar organisations… 

OHF tries to create a space where everybody can feel safe and welcome. Plus, it is working with the people not for the people which I think is very important. But I’m sure all the other organisations try to do that as well. 

28 Jan

“In One Happy Family I have learned more than in any other place before.” 

Ludovic, 25, Product Manager in Baby Care Company

This is my most memorable moment…

There are so many moments… I will always remember Christmas party with all the helpers dancing all together, no matter of their country of origin. Lovely team!

This struck me the most…

When I saw helpers coming from Moria in the morning for the shuttle, with white and pale faces, like if they almost died in the camp because of the cold… 

One Happy Family is…

The best place to live when you need consideration, love, family, help, warmth, a café or more.

This is what I would like to tell other people…

I feel like we are brothers, I wish we will spend time together soon in Europe.

My tasks in One Happy Family are…

I am a regular volunteer. I wanted to be a volunteer among others, to do any tasks when needed. So far I have worked for every activity at OHF: teaching english, serving food and coffees, playing sports, running the bank and barbershop and so many more. I have even been involved in building the Shisha Lounge Roof and the new volunteer office. At OHF I have learned more than in any other place before. 

What do you think makes One Happy Family different from other similar organisations…

One Happy Family is different thanks to its coordination team and helpers. The coordination team ensures that our values are respected and the helpers run this place as if it was their own family.

14 Jan

Refugee story tellers Episode 2: Praying For Disease

“Living under inhumane circumstances in the refugee camp Moria in Lesvos, Greece, people do everything they can in order to get a vulnerability paper from the doctors. It is said, that if you are vulnerable, the authorities will move you away from the camp to better circumstances.

In this episode, we listen to the voice of a young refugee who is currently living in the camp. He explains in further details about the hard conditions, violence and the abuse of alcohol that takes place in the camp.

The episode is created by Khodadad
Produced by Refugee Media Production”