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