One Happy Family

Job: Long term volunteer, internal communication, social media.
Activity: Community center
Location: Lesvos island, Greece
Year: Oct 2017 – Feb 2018


“Working with them and not for them” is the motto of this community centre based in Mytilini, near the two camps of the island. The centre provides a peaceful atmosphere where people can come and participate to the different activities. We have volunteers but the centre is mostly in the hand of the helpers (“refugee-volunteers”). They are engaged in building and running the centre but also in idea-finding and decision making. That’s how we give back some sense of responsibility and empowerment they lost by being called refugees.
We also have a free-currency for visitors: they can get two bank notes for free, once a day, and use this money to buy clothes, tea or get a haircut, … This tiny process-shift has a great impact because it allows all the visitors to gain their independence. Among that, we provide a free warm meal everyday and welcome an average of 600 people per day.

I decided to join OHF because I heard about their free-currency. This innovative solution showed their open-mindedness to the creative process.

What problem did I solve?

Being a volunteer in OHF is about helping to do all the daily tasks: from driving to cleaning, from preparing tea to distributing food… it’s a non-stop 8 hours of work surrounded by an average of 600 visitors.

This is a great context to try and create design solutions. I quickly focused on communication which was perceived as a real challenge with more than 20 nationalities on a daily basis.

For example, every time an information had to be shared to the visitors, a volunteer had to walk around to find people of each community able to understand the message and write on their language.

How did I solve it?

I always worked in collaboration with the coordination team and shared my work with volunteers & helpers to smoothly implement an idea.

During this period I worked on the communication of the NGO, both internally and on social media.

On social media, I was in charge of planning the themes (eg: Monday Meet the Family), taking the photos, writing the drafts and discussing about the posts & strategy with the remote board members team.

Internally, I created a list of pictograms which could be understood by all the nationalities. It was a long process to analyse and work with different cultures. It’s now part of One Happy Family’s identity. Different documents have been made during this period, including the map of OHF, the emergency map, the “how to fundraise for volunteers”, the Wall of helpers and the Wall of Fame for helpers who left the island.

On a later stage, I made a video to show this diversity of people. “Faces of OHF” is a video with portraits of 73 helpers & volunteers coming from 28 countries. It reached 6308 persons and got 416 reactions.

Finally, I raised 2000€ for the kitchen.

What was the impact?

If I volunteered with One Happy Family for six months, I continued to visit the place on a weekly basis and became part of the family. The board members and coordinators are close friends. I also met helpers and volunteers outside Lesvos. And I continue to have a voice within the team and social media from a distance.