Helen Keller once said, “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart.” That statement may be hard to believe while staring at the beautiful picture above, from one of our most recent trips to Plomari, a stunning beach town on the south coast of Lesvos. But, as strange as it sounds, I would much rather spend my time in the second picture below, in Camp Moria, where circumstances are difficult, or working to improve the lives of refugees in one of our many projects here on the island.
Don’t get me wrong, the beaches of Plomari are beautiful, but it does not compare to the many bonds of friendship we have made while working to improve the lives of refugees. This work can feel overwhelming at times because there are thousands who need our help. However, by focusing our efforts on one person at a time we know that the impact we’re making is real and tangible.
One of the places where I have been able to develop many friendships and make a large impact is at one of our partners on the island, a community center for refugee’s called One Happy Family. This community center serves as a refuge to thousands on the island providing a safe space, warm meals, and a much needed break from their current reality.
What is most unique about this community center is that it is primarily run by refugees. This means that much of the leadership team, security, kitchen staff, activity team, and other staff members are the ones running the show. This is no small feat for an organization that regularly feeds between 650-1000 people every weekday. It is one of the only places on the entire island that provides a warm meal to all visitors at no cost. One Happy Family is also one of the only places where people feel safe and united as a community. This is in large part due to a dedicated security team whose sole mission is to keep the peace and ensure a tranquil and positive environment for everyone.
Ivone, a volunteer at One Happy Family from Switzerland, and Jordan working together.
One of the best parts about One Happy Family is that it provides so many opportunities to have fun. The community center has so much to offer including: a half-court basketball, a volleyball net, a playground, board games, four-square court, a woman’s center, arts and craft table, café, shop, tailor, barber, school, child care, gym, and much more. I have had so many people tell me that their first time smiling since leaving home was at One Happy Family. Every day there are new workshops where refugees may learn valuable skills for the future. There are also classes where English and Greek are taught each weekday. It is an incredible opportunity for refugees and volunteers alike to experience the joys of life by coming together as a community.
Jennifer and Jordan in the kitchen at One Happy Family preparing breakfast.
Hellen Keller’s quote is so true at one Happy Family. It has been such a beautiful experience that you can only understand when you are here feel being here with amazing people. This is why I would much rather spend my time in the difficult circumstances of Camp Moria or working with the people who have fled their homelands to come here. One Happy Family allows peoples some reprieve and some happiness and there is nothing more beautiful than that.
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