by Nili Bresler, site visit to Lesbos, June 2017
Last week I had the privilege of spending time with my friends at One Happy Family - Community Center, Lesvos - amazing people, working together to make big and little miracles happen every day in real time! OHF is a magical place: an oasis of peace and harmony among the chaos of this crazy world. Situated between two nearby refugee camps, the center is built on 6 acres of land on a hilltop that had only a huge abandoned warehouse and debris. It is now a beautiful and well-equipped community center and campus, decorated with gardens and murals all created by the community, i.e., refugees. Being there, I could see why the people from the camps trek up the long steep hill everyday in 95 degree heat to come to our center. They can sit and sip coffee, work out at the gym (the trainer is very strict: You miss a scheduled session and you're in hot water) , puff on a water pipe, chat with friends and of course study English, Greek and other subjects at our school. A little oasis of normalcy before they have to return to the camps at sundown. The Center is staffed by the refugees themselves. They learn new jobs, or do jobs they already knew from home. The Center has a tailor, barbers, cooks, artists and sign-makers (some very talented calligraphers), cleaners, handymen, childcare workers and even a self-taught barista - who makes a wonderful cup of coffee in a donated cappuccino machine. . . So many smiles, so many incredible people . One of these people is Salim, who teaches at our school. He's not just a teacher, but also a storyteller, a gardener and a dreamer. He has a little book where every visitor must write a wish for peace. He told me once it's filled, he'll start a new one. And one real hero is the center's cook, who somehow manages to feed hundreds of people daily, with the most basic ingredients, and cooking out of a tiny field kitchen, located outside of the center. Average heat in the kitchen must be over 40 degrees (105 F) most of the time! I left Lesbos a few days ago, but my heart is still there. Now I, too, am part of One Happy Family - Community Center, Lesvos !
One Happy Family Center, an oasis of peace and harmony