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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!

24 Nov

“All that is needed is the collaboration of everyone doing their little bit to support”

Today’s volunteer story is about Freddies experience at One Happy Family. He stayed with us for three weeks in summer. As a teacher Freddie was involved in the Adult School and did a lot of teacher training to all of our teachers – those who learnt teaching here and those who came with a background in teaching from their home countries.

Thank you, Freddie, for your energy and all your very good advices!

This is my most memorable moment:

One of the most memorable moments was during one of the open stages. First afghani men were dancing and everyone was chanting them, there then was a very loud cheer for someone because he is a very good dancer. And this man, he is from Congo, so then the music was changed into Congolese music. The energy in the room was amazing, equally for both music genres – that was a very beautiful moment to watch: seeing how everybody wants to be together, a community here in One Happy Family.

This struck me the most:

The beauty and strength of human endurance. The fact that the visitors are able to still be positive and people, when they are at One Happy Family.

One Happy Family is…

A community of love and hope!

What I would like to tell other people:

That everybody can help with the so called “refugee crisis”. Because all that is needed is the collaboration of everyone doing their little bit to support. No matter how small or medium the job is.

My tasks in One Happy Family are…

Every day I was teaching in the adult school, I helped to design a curriculum for the different levels and I ran teacher meetings and facilitated the peer support for the short-term volunteers, but I also helped out with daily tasks.

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

I don’t have experience but I think something that struck me was how open and humble the coordination team are – which makes it very easy for people to help and to suggest ideas to improve the organisation.

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.

20 Sep

One Happy Podcast #8

This Episode is all about recording, editing and creating Radio.

We present you the Radio Lesvos workshop in One Happy Family, organised and led by the three amazing volunteers

Amelie, Clement and Adrien from Monobloc.

Amelie will explain what they wanted to achieve in their workshop, how it went, what participants learnt and why One Happy Family is a very interesting place to do workshops. 

Also two of the participants explain why they loved being part of the whole program, why it is important to be active and learn during the time people are on this island and what they actually learned in this short two weeks.

12 Sep

One Happy Podcast #7

This week we talk about how people deal with foreign languages and situations where they got misunderstood, had an awkward situation or laughed because of funny mistakes.

We will also introduce the professional skills workshop with Danielle and Cliff. What was important for them while they were here, how did people participate and what skills did they adopt?

In the end we will explain you some expressions and words that you can only understand when you are here in Lesvos. For example what does it mean, when you say: ‘Mobile phone Alibaba.’ 

Have fun listening and let us know what you think in the comments.

26 Aug

One Happy Podcast #5

This Episode is all about the One Happy Family currency the ‘Drachma’.

What is Drachma? Where does this name come from?

Where can I use Drachma?

How many Drachmas do I need for a tea or a coffee? 

How does the new recycling idea for the café work?

How much costs a shampoo?

What do we have in our shop?

How many Drachmas do I need to play one round of Playstation Fifa?

Where do we actually issue the Drachma for the entire center?

Those and many more questions will be answered in this week’s Podcast.

And what would happen if the Drachma would take over the world financial market? As always a little comedy in the end to make you smile and let you digress into a fantasy world where Drachma rules the world 😁