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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.

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.

31 Oct

‘’Coming here made me realise, that every individual matters’’

Silke Reiter, 36, anthropologist from Austria

This is my most memorable moment…
I am super impressed by the kitchen team. Cooking for so many people in such a tiny place is an incredible task. The kitchen team is so dedicated to their work and they always try to make the best out of everything and they are cooking delicious, nutritious and healthy food.

This struck me the most…
The stories that the people keep telling me about the life in Moria. When I sit down with them, they often start talking to me about what they experience and they show me pictures and videos of it. What especially hits me every time, are the horrible conditions that especially people in the tents have to live in. It is hard for me to deal with their stories, I really can’t imagine how it must be for them, to live there, to go through all of this. Still and nevertheless, when they come to One Happy Family, they have a smile on their face and they are really trying to have a good time! I think, as a volunteer, I can learn a lot from them and it reminds me how privileged we are. 

One Happy Family is…
A lovely place, where people have the possibility to hang out together and have a good time. I think it’s a good way for them to be distracted for a while of what they have been through and get some time out from the life in Moria.

This is what I would like to tell other people…
I think that everyone who has or could find the possibility to volunteer with refugees, should do it. It doesn’t matter if it is back home or somewhere abroad. You will meet the people behind the statistical numbers. This makes it real and you will understand that all of them are humans like you and me. I think it is our responsibility to speak up for those who can’t and give them a voice. We have the power to do so, instead of them. 

My tasks in One Happy Family are…
I help out wherever needed. I help out in most of the projects. The bank, the barber, the tailor, the cafe, etc. I try to help improve whatever I can and also learn from whoever I can, as much as I can.

12 Oct

‘’We have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.’’

Ross Ireland, 64, a semi-retired businessman from England.

This is my most memorable moment…
My favourite time of the day is when we close the main building to adults and the school kids come for their supper. They walk in singing songs and reciting the alphabet in English and they’re always happy and full of energy. It’s great to see that the kids are happy, even though they live in very bad circumstances.

This struck me the most…
The scale of the problem on this island. The number of people stuck here and the number of new people that arrive everyday. We would like to do more to help them, but it’s impossible for one organisation to do everything. At least when they visit One Happy Family they are treated with respect and being here is a positive experience for them.

One Happy Family is…
A haven in a living hell – a safe place for people to live a normal existence for a few hours every day.

This is what I would like to tell other people…
Despite the diversity of the people and the complexities of the problem we have many things in common as all humans do. Most of the people are fleeing wars and violence and genuinely need help.
We need support to carry on this work. Help from the outside is important to maintain the work that we and others are doing here.

My tasks in One Happy Family are mainly…
Organising building work, repairs and maintenance. Just generally keeping things going.
I enjoy taking part in the lunch service where we serve about 800 meals every day. I also help with the hygiene shop where we distribute basic items like soap, toothpaste and shampoo, also diapers to parents with babies.
I’m an enthusiastic but not very good chess player and when I arrived we only had 1 chess board so I bought another 10 so that more people could play which has become very popular. Chess is a really absorbing game and a good distraction from the problems of daily life. Amongst the visitors to One Happy Family there are an Iranian and an Afghan chess champion!

What do you think makes One Happy Family different from other similar organisations…
It’s the very successful recruitment of helpers from the camps who actually run mostly everything here. One Happy Family is organised in such a way that it facilitates through trust and cooperation rather than top down management which is great for efficiency – and the self esteem of the helpers.

26 Sep

‘’ We need to keep fighting for people’s human rights!‘’

Lily Peck, 27, agriculture/ plant sciences PhD student from England

For the past 5 weeks Lily has been working with us in One Happy Family for the second time this year. After this experience, she wants to raise more awareness in her home country. ‘’People think that the crisis here on Lesvos is over. It is not over and that is why we need to keep raising awareness in our home countries.’’

This is my most memorable moment…
‘’My most memorable moment is our day trip to the women’s festival in Eressos with a group of women from Moria. The women’s house in One Happy Family and it’s visitors had been working on making bags out of used clothes, including a wedding dress, and we sold those bags at the festival to raise money for the women’s house.
They told me that they loved the trip because they never really get out of Moria or Mytilini. We spend time swimming, eating lunch and hanging out in the sun, listening to music. When we dropped the women off at Moria, they told me that they wish they could turn back the clock to the start of the day so they could do this day all over again.’’

This struck me the most…
‘’The strength and the bravery of the helpers and the visitors in One Happy Family. I also worked with the women’s swimming class at Sport For Refugees. The strength and the bravery that these women showed by getting back into the water really amazed me. Mostly all of them have had a traumatic experience crossing over from Turkey. You can see that they are scared to get in and put their heads under water. But seeing them trying to overcome their fear and learning to swim was incredible’’

One Happy Family is…
‘’A utopian communist society where everyone is equal regardless of religion, status or age. Everyone here is treated fairly and with love and respect.’’

This is what I would like to tell other people…
‘’The crisis here is not over, even though it’s not in the media anymore. People are still arriving here, for example there were over 500 new arrivals in one weekend. We need to keep raising awareness and promoting the organisations that are trying to do their best to help out here on Lesvos. We need to keep fighting for people’s human rights, because they cannot do it themselves while they are stuck here. The people here are fleeing genuine persecution or danger and we should never forget that in Europe, where often the humanity is removed, and the situation here is seen as a problem. We have to keep raising awareness in our home countries.’’

My tasks in One Happy Family were…
‘’Supporting the 3 helpers, Sara, Zahra and Hanan, in the women’s house to make it a calm, peaceful and empowering environment. I introduced a new program while I was here, which includes key health advice from DocMobile once a week, legal advice and English classes.
As I told before I also helped out at Sport For Refugees with the swimming classes and the running classes. It was so good to help, support and engage young people to take them out of Moria and make them do physical excercises.’’

12 Sep

‘I didn’t know I could learn so much from other people in just a few weeks’

Anja Otth, 25, social work student from Switzerland

After working with refugees in Switzerland, Anja decided to come to Lesvos to see things from a different point of view. She wanted to see what the people here are going through so she could use this experience in her work in Switzerland. ‘Working here as a volunteer on Lesvos taught me to see things from another perspective. In my time on Lesvos I learned so much from the people that are here.’ 

 

This is my most memorable moment…
The thing that I really liked to do was the cleaning day. All the volunteers and helpers were working together to make One Happy Family even more beautiful! We started the day with some yoga to relax our minds and bodies and I really enjoyed this because it was also a kind of team-building thing. Days like this make the team grow even closer to each other.’

This struck me the most…
When I worked in Switzerland I had a very professional role so it was easier for me to keep my distance from the people. Being here, working as a volunteer so close with the people is different. I heard a lot of personal stories and the whole situation comes so close! When I talked with people who have been here for a long time, I heard many rough and touching stories. I knew living here was hard before I came here, but I didn’t realise how many things are actually going wrong here, on this island.
One moment that is really stuck in my mind, is my visit to the lifejacket graveyard and realising that the inside of the lifejackets actually suck up the water instead of making them float, because of the cheap quality.’ 

One Happy Family is…
‘A safe place were people can learn from each other and where people get the opportunity to use their skills and share this with others.’

This is what I would like to tell other people…
I think it would be good if everyone once experienced how it is to work here so they can see what is actually going on. For the 1,5 years that One Happy Family now exists I am so surprised by how it grew and how it is still growing and helping the people in such a positive way! I hope that more people will come here and spread the idea around so more places like this will appear.’

My tasks in One Happy Family were…

I was coordinating the adult school, the youth space and the guitar classes for the youth and the adults. I also helped out wherever my help was needed.

18 Jul

‘Kindness can go a long way’

Ashley and Jordan Johnsen

Living in the United States, Ashley and Jordan Johnsen know the refugee crises is a hot topic. But with Trump as their president, they say there is not a lot of information about displaced people. A reason to come to Lesvos to see the situation themselves.

‘Trump dominates our news cycle. And his administration does not really care about refugees. We wanted to come here, so we could share our experience with the world.

We knew it was going to be a difficult and emotional experience. But we did not realize that it also would be so enjoyable. These people have suffered and survived. And they continue to survive by living in terrible conditions. But despite all of this, they have such a positive attitude. We are amazed’.

We came to Lesvos, because …
‘We wanted to be able to interact with refugees. We could have sent money, but it was important for us to meet the people first hand. We believe that kindness can go a long way. The people we have met have suffered a lot. They are treated as numbers in the camps. We wanted to show them that there are people in the world who empathize with them on an equal base. We came here, because ‘just’ being kind to someone, can make a big difference’.

These were our tasks …
‘Ashley mainly worked in the woman house. This was interesting. A lot of the women cannot speak English. Most of them were also quite reserved. She would spent the whole day in there and eventually the women started to open up. Because communicating with them was difficult, we found different ways to interact with them. We danced, sewed, or drank tea together.

‘Jordan did a lot of activities with the children. It was wonderful to see that, once you are playing with them, a smile appears on their face. Still, it was heartbreaking to realize that they don’t know a life without worries. When they weren't  playing, they looked miserable. Their lives will never be the same as how it was before’.

This was our most memorable moment …
‘The intimate conversations with the people we have met sticked with us the most. Even though we are from totally different lives, we were still able to connect and share different experiences.

Ashley had a conversation with a woman about the hijab and what it means to be a muslim. In the beginning we had our ‘western thoughts’ about it. But to hear someone talk about their culture and their pride, really affected us. It changed the way we think about topics like these. This woman helped us understand why wearing a hijab is so important for her and why it is a source of pride. She helped us seeing it through new eyes’.

One Happy Family is …
A special and empowering place. This community center gives the people a sense of purpose. And this makes a difference. Refugees are trusted to do their tasks and no one is monitoring them to see what they are doing. They get back a bit of responsibility.  One Happy Family is also a safe place. The people can escape everything that is going on in their life for a while.

Besides this, this community center is a place full of love. Refugees here are so used to volunteers coming and going. You would expect that they are not so welcoming anymore. But the opposite is true. They really embrace you and let you in their heart. This is touching, but it also makes it much more harder to leave’.

Our message to other people …
It is hard to put this experience in to words. We want to encourage people to come here for themselves. You can hear about this in the news, and it may upset you, but you also distance yourself because that is there and you are here. When you visit Lesvos, you cannot distance yourself anymore. And this is important. People have to see this with their own eyes’.

Ashley Johnsen

Age: 30

Country:  United States of America

Occupation: Law student

Stay: 29 April - 13 May

Jordan Johsen

Age: 34

Country: United States of America

Occupation: Real Estate Developer

Stay: 29 April - 13 May

11 Jul

‘Refugees are not from a different planet’

Gaelle Dietrich

Gaelle Dietrich volunteers in a center for refugees in Germany. To learn more about what these people are going through, she decided to go to Lesvos. ‘I wanted to go a little bit further in the work I am doing. I felt the need to see where the people I work with have lived and what they’ve experienced. In Germany I wasn’t able to get fully confronted with this.’

‘When I heard about One Happy Family it sounded like a perfect place for me to work. There are many different activities and you also have the time to talk to the people. In this way you can understand the situation they are in much better.’

This is my most memorable moment…
‘What has impressed me is all the love and solidarity I’ve received. The name ‘One Happy Family’ is not just a brand mark, it is a reality. It is so easy to talk to people and to have a good and honest conversation. The trust they have in you is amazing. I met a boy who suddenly told me he missies his mother. That he opened up to me and told me something so personal really touched my heart.'

This struck me the most…
‘The refugees in this center have so much energy and are so joyful. But at the same time there is a lot of pain in the background.  You can see this when someone is sitting on their own and is thinking. Or when they tell you something personal.  There is a big contrast between joy and reality.  And there can be so much feelings in just one hour. This must be exhausting for them.’

One Happy Family is …
A world apart. A place where people can escape from life in camp Moria. It is surprising how calm and restful the people are here. Some adults are drawing flowers the whole day and are so peaceful in that moment. This is amazing to see. One Happy Family provides this place, where  people can express their feelings and relief the stress they are experiencing

This is what I would like to tell other people …
'I would like to tell the people who are living in Moria that I am proud of them. I am proud of their strength and their wish to stay alive at any price. Please continue in this way.

I would like to tell people who are living in other countries to visit Lesvos.
A lot of people think it is difficult to talk with refugees. But it is not. We are all humans and we can all communicate with each other. A lot of people are afraid of refugees and they don’t know how to deal with this. But when you visit this place, you will see that they are just like us. Human beings. They are not from a different planet.’

Age: 34

Country: Germany

Occupation: project manager

Stay: 20 April -22 May