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

07 Jul

Hello everybody from the radio of OHF Lesvos: Impressions from the Podcast Workshop at One Happy Family

Thanks to MicroCamp Radio we were able to host the first radio-making workshop at "One Happy Family" community center on Lesvos. During the workshop, the participans Judith, Cédric, Ali, Yasseen & Natacha learned the art of producing a podcast.

The topic of the first episode concerns the life before and in Moria camp on Lesvos. We discuss the aftermath of violent clashes between residents of the camp, and have look at the relations between the different nationalities that live there.

In the second eposide, Yasseen welcomes Judith, a Cameroonian singer, and Ali, a specialist in Indian music. Also, Natacha interviews Zuri Camille de Souza and his assistant Jimmy Granger about their garden.

Listen to both episodes in the audio file below:

Workshops like this empower our visitors to discover and improve their talents. We are currently finishing the construction of a radio/multimedia studio located in the former boutique building on our site, and are looking forward to be able to stream the first official broadcast in the comming weeks.

04 Jul

‘My impact starts now’

Tina Leiser

She decided to go to Lesvos because she felt the need to know what refugees in Europe go through. After this experience, Tina Leiser is ready to raise awareness in Switzerland.

‘I know my impact in Lesvos was really small. But I needed to come here to understand the whole situation. Now I can take the next step which is raising awareness. My impact starts now.’

My tasks in One Happy Family, were …
‘Teaching English and translating for the doctors in DocMobile. The English classes were very interesting. Even though I was the teacher, I also learned a lot of them. I learned about their language, their culture but also about their powerfulness. These people are so strong. And most of them also have a good sense of humor.’

‘Translating for the doctors was a bit more tough. I have heard a lot of horrible stories and I had to protect myself by setting a distance. You cannot get to personal, because it is terrible to realize that everything they describe truly happened to them. Despite this, I did feel very useful doing this job. As there are many Africans in Lesvos, a French translator is necessary.’

This struck me the most …
I did not realize that the refugees are stuck in Lesvos for such a long time. Some of them are here for months or even years. And they are living in an overcrowded camp with more than 7000 people. A camp where they are treated like animals. These people experienced the most horrible things but look how we welcome them. I feel so ashamed of this.

One of the hardest things for me was how the local people treat the refugees. I will always remember the night when greek people attacked refugees who were having a peaceful demonstration. They threw stones at families and children. This was the first time I experienced something so violent. It showed how tough life can be for refugees. They are not seen as human beings. It still makes me so sad.

One Happy Family is …
‘A bubble. But this is a good thing. The people need this. Over here they can rest, relax and maybe even enjoy their days. I really like how this community center is being run. It means a lot to me that we work together with the refugees to reach something. Also all the volunteers are involved in the projects. We all carry this wonderful center.

What i’d like to tell other people …
We are all part of the same world. We are all equal and we all have the same rights. The people I've meet here deserve it to have a life which they can enjoy. Not a life where they are worried whether they will get asylum or not. Think about this. And care about everyone. Not only about your own friends and family.’

Age: 28

Country: Switzerland

Occupation: project officer

Stay: 1 april - 13 may

14 Jun

‘Try to imagine how it feels to be a refugee’

Soa Krummenacher

She wanted to travel, but she could not decide where to go. A documentary about Moria made her decide to go to Lesvos. ‘It was not a problem, but the fact that I had so many opportunities in my life stressed me out. What if I didn’t make the right choice? After seeing the situation in Moria, I was sure I wanted to do something for other people instead of for myself.’

‘Volunteering in One Happy Family has been great. I met a lot of amazing people and got to know different and new cultures. The most special thing was that all these different people could get along with each other so well. This community center really is a family.’

I came to Lesvos, because …
'I knew that there were refugees in Lesvos, but I didn’t hear much about it in the media. I wondered if there was still a crises going on. Now that I have been there, I know how bad the situation is. And that there really is a big, humanitarian crises in Greece.’

My tasks in One Happy Family, were …
‘Driving the shuttle, painting and coloring at the art table and working at the bank. Especially driving the car was fun. Most of the times it felt like a big party, with nice music and good vibes. Working at the bank was sometimes difficult, because the people wanted more drachma then we gave them. I understood them. They have lost everything. It was hard for me to say no to them, but I had to. Otherwise I wasn’t able to do my work properly.’

One Happy Family is …
‘A place where people really care about each .The atmosphere is so friendly and warm. I haven’t been in Moria, but I hear it is so horrible. One Happy Family is a place where the people can get away from this, even if it’s just for a short time. They can drink coffee or play some games. They are able do things to free their mind for a while. In my opinion this is very needed.’

This struck me the most
‘Like everyone else, I sometimes read about the horrifying things that are happening in countries that are in war. Even though it is heartbreaking, I still find it difficult to really feel what these people are going through. When I was in Lesvos, a boy told me his pregnant sister got killed by a bomb in front of his house. This confronted me with the reality. I really felt his pain. And I realized that this is happening to so many people. It really touched my heart.’

What I’d like to tell other people …
‘It is hard for me to exactly know how the refugees feel. I did not leave my country. I still have all of my family members with me. I can leave this island. I am free. These people have gone through hell and they are still in it. I think it is important that people try to imagine how this feels. Try to think about it, and ask yourself the question; how would this be for me? Maybe people will empathize more with refugees in this way.’

Age: 23

Country: Switzerland

Occupation: psychology student

Stay: 15 March - 5 April

06 Jun

‘I am confronted with the reality now’

Brigitte Fredriksen

As an English teacher, Brigitte Fredriksen decided she wanted to use her education skills somewhere else. Her experience in One Happy Family has moved her and opened her eyes.

‘The people I’ve met in the community center are so open, friendly and welcoming. The daily life of the refugees is so different from mine, but still I was able to relate to them. It was a very intense experience, but also so valuable.

I decided to go to Lesvos, because …
‘I wanted to learn more about the situation there. First, I was thinking to work with refugees in Libanon. But then I realized that there are also a lot of refugees in Europe. The fact that we have refugee crisis here is interesting. I felt like I needed to help, since I am a citizen of this part of the world. I wanted to do something meaningful. But I also wanted to see if the crisis was still going on. Unfortunately, I now know it is.

What were your expectations of One Happy Family?
Before I left to Lesvos, I read a lot of information about this community center on the internet. The philosophy of this organization - not for the people but with them - really appealed to me. I believe humanitarian aid is not only about helping, but also about empowering. I was hoping to see this in One Happy Family. And luckily I did. This is a really vibrant community, where refugees are given the chance to use their qualities. It makes them feel human again.’

My task in One Happy Family was …
‘Teaching English to adults. This was interesting. Back home, I am very strict during my lessons. But here I had to be more flexibel. The people have to walk one hour to visit this place. When they were late for classes, I decided to let them in. This is something I wouldn’t do in Norway.

Although it was sometimes difficult to explain certain things, all the people were really motivated to learn. There are many people with different language backgrounds and some of them are not educated. But still, I did not had to stimulate them myself. This was wonderful to see. ’

What struck me the most was …
People telling me how they cannot sleep at night. I wonder how long it will take before they go mad. It also got to me that I was not able to do anything about this situation. Imagine how the people themselves feel. This is one of the many reasons why there is such a need for a place like One Happy Family. The people can relax a bit and enjoy themselves.’

What I would like to tell other people …
At this moment, lives are being destroyed. This crisis is still going on. And the fact that this is happening in Europe, is mind-blowing. The way we treat refugees is not according to the human rights. The politicians have made a major mistake.’

I am confronted with the reality now. You can think, talk and reason about this crisis. But when you meet the people and feel their pain, you feel the obligation to do something. When I am back in Norway, I will start raising awareness about the situation in Lesvos. It’s impossible for me to accept this any longer.’

Age: 43

Country: Norway

Occupation: teacher

Stay: March 18 - April 1

29 May

‘This experience will stay in our hearts’

Elisabeth Tobler, Barbara Aulopi & Alexsandra Hitz

Elisabeth Tobler, Barbara Aulopi and Alexsandra Hitz wanted to make the world a little bit better. When they got to know about One Happy Family, they knew this was the right place to volunteer. ‘We feel close to the motto of this community center; not working for, but with the people. As teachers we try to do the same. And we can tell; it works.’

‘We are sad to leave. We’ve met so many smart and good people. They were part of our daily life. It is normal to get a bit attached to them.’

We came to Lesvos, because …
‘Elisabeths son was here a year ago. He organized a fundraising event where he told about his experience in One Happy Family.The same evening we decided to book our tickets and volunteer at this community center. His story just caught us. The fact that we would go together also motivated us. We knew we were with the right people to share such an intense experience with.’

Our experience was …
‘Touching. I think this is difficult to explain to people who haven't been here. It is a feeling. You can see the pain in the eyes of the refugees. This community center really is a happy place. But it is sad at the same time. Because at the end of the day, they will go back to Moria. A place which is too horrible to describe.’

Our most memorable moment was …
‘Teaching English to the helpers. They were so grateful and keen to learn. As teachers, we know that this is not always the case. The courses were sometimes difficult for them. But despite this, they told us they learned something new everyday. It was wonderful that we were able to give them our full attention. They were the most important persons for us while we were teaching. That was heart opening.

What wasn’t a nice experience, but did stuck with us, was the driving to Moria. We had to take the helpers there after they worked in One Happy Family. We could see the fences and the bad condition of the camp. Knowing that we had to leave them there for the night, made us so sad.’

One Happy Family is …
‘Really a family. It is the home for many people in Lesvos. It is a place where the people trust in the abilities and knowledge of others. It shows that, if you just have faith in people, something beautiful like this community center can be the outcome.’

What we would like to tell other people …
‘There is a tragedy going on in Greece. You can’t realize how bad it is, if you haven’t been here. We would like to advice people to visit this place and volunteer. Human work can change something. The fact that you are volunteering, shows that you support the refugees. The warmth you give them, also returns back to you. You will keep this in your heart. Something more beautiful than this doesn’t exist.’

Alexsandra Hitz (left)

Age: 26

Country: Switzerland

Occupation: teacher

Stay: 9 april - 19 april

Elisabeth Tobler (middle)

Age: 52

Country: Switzerland

Occupation: teacher

Stay: 9 april - 19 april

Barbara Aulopi (right)

Age: 36

Country: Switzerland

Occupation: Teacher

Stay: 9 April - 19 April

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