Reflective (Pakistan) – Student since February 2019
Habibi Center, it may sound like just a name but it’s more than just a name. It’s very important to us and personally, to me. It’s my heartbeats and without heartbeats, no one can live so do I and I am sure I am not the only one who feels like this. Habibi Center boosts confidence and apart from studying teaches us to establish and maintain things in every condition, and helps us learn how to work together as a team, which is a primary tenet of any successful society. Habibi Center is a place where we learn enough worthwhile things to make a strong start in life and where we develop the desire to learn more. All the credit goes to those who ran Habibi Center.
I’m so grateful that I am part of the Habibi Center. Thank you, Miss Stephanie, for emboldening me. Your positivity and encouragement brightened my days. You made me a better, more thoughtful person. You are one of the sweetest people and teachers I’ve ever known.
Aziza (Iraq) – Student from August 2016 to January 2017
My name is Aziza. I am 18 years old and I am from Iraq.
When I was 15, I went to Greece and everything was very difficult for us: to speak English and to know other people. I lost my friends and everything in my country and I was so lonely. My hopes were cut in school. I thought that I would never be able to go to school again, but one day I moved to a camp in Katsikas with my family and met new people and got to know friends in Katsikas.
One day I was looking at people and I told myself how they can speak English because learning English was one of my dreams. Next day Steph and Toby came and they asked us if we wanted to join Habibi Center to learn English language and how to use computers. I was so happy and I said of course I will come to Habibi Center and I want to learn English. Our wish was to learn English. The teachers taught us English and opened a school for us. They all taught us, helped, and gave us a new life. I remember my fırst day in Habibi Center had mixed feelings. I was a little nervous, a bit scared and very excited to meet new people. A few weeks later my feelings changed as time passed by. After that I wasn’t anxious anymore and I was satisfied to learn English and I met many friends.
I don’t know what to say. I can’t describe Habibi Center in a few words. When I arrived in Germany the English language helped me a lot. I had very nice teachers and I had a lot of contact with them. I learned a lot and had so much fun. We were like one family together. In short, Habibi Center was my second family. Thanks for everything and for teaching us. I will never forget that. I hope to see you all again Toby, Stephanie, Pablo, Alex, Eva, Anne, Emilio, Martin, Gomi, all teachers…
Bushra (Syria) – Student from January 2018 to November 2018
My name is Bushra. I’m from Syria. I’m 18 years old. I came to Athens when I was 17 years old.
One day I was so upset because I am losing my future and my big dreams and it’s really hard to start from zero but I said to myself I have to be more patient and stronger to face this hard circumstances. Next day I heard about Jasmine she is pretty good girl and she is the same age and she is studying English in Habibi Center. Then I decided to meet Jasmine to ask her about Habibi Center.
I was really excited to continue studying English because I had already a little bit in my school in Syria. I went to Habibi Center and I meet kind teachers and they helped me to improve my skills in English. After 3 months my teacher told me you are ready now to do B1 exam. I was really happy and surprised because in a short time I achieved what I want with my lovely teachers’ help. After studying in Habibi Center I traveled to Germany and now I am working as a translator for refugees from English to Arabic for 6 months.
I’m really thankful to Habibi Center.
M-Rateb (Syria) – Student from March 2018 to December 2018
I was a student in Habibi Center for more than 8 months. I was studying in another school (Greek public school) before I got to know Habibi Center. My friends used to study there and they told me about the center and how it works. I went there after I got the address and I registered with them and they told me: “you can start from tomorrow afternoon”. Actually I went because I wanted to improve my English language.
Honestly I was a little bit nervous because I had to make new friends and new teachers. I was like that around 1 week. The week after I felt the teachers knew me from a long time ago because they were so friendly and the students were amazing.
I spent a lovely time in Habibi Center and I’ve learned a lot of things like reading, writing, new words and all that because of the teachers. I really miss Habibi Center and the teachers who are working there.
I’m now living in UK (London). I’m very happy to live here and I can use the English language because I’ve learned the correct grammar from the Habibi Center.
Big thanks to the teachers and Habibi Center and to everyone who contributed to it.
Layla (Iraq) – Student from August 2016 to December 2017
My name is Layla and I’m from Iraq. Going to Habibi Center wasn’t only an opportunity for me to learn English but also a place to get my mind off of everything I was going through at the time. I will never forget the time I spent with all the incredible people I met there.
It was another normal day of my life doing absolutely nothing, when a teacher (Toby) and one of my friends asked me if I wanted to go to school. I couldn’t believe what I just heard to be honest. They said that I’m gonna be taking English and Computer classes. I was excited to finally learn English so that I could communicate with people from different countries and help others translate. The first day of school, we’re only two girls and the others were all boys. Each of us got a camera and we went to different places (restaurants, cafés, streets, etc.) to take pictures. Then we got back to school and we were asked to make different facial expressions. I chose SAD because I was too shy to show my face and that way I could cover it. Then we took photos of each other and had fun scanning them.
The next day I started English classes and I had a feeling I was already improving. Weeks went by and more and more people joined the school, which made everything even more amazing than it already was. I would wake up every day and be eager to go to school and see all of my favourite people. I mean, isn’t it everyone’s dream to spend time with people they love while learning something super important? After some time there were more classes (Art, Math, German, Greek and German) If I didn’t go to Habibi Center I wouldn’t be able to help my family in any way, I mean I was living with my grandparents and they were sick almost all the time and someone needed to stay with them at the hospital to translate and of course that someone was me.
Despite the circumstances, the teachers encouraged me to learn for my Cambridge English exams. I’m so beyond thankful that they paid for and prepared everything. I took it three times alongside my friends until I got to level B1. People always told me to stop learning English because they thought that I was gonna forget it anyways, but I never listened to any of that. When I got to Germany, I of course had a lot papers to do and I couldn’t do any of that without the help of English. Even now (after two years of living in Germany) I speak English whenever people don’t understand me.
I’m grateful from the bottom of my heart for everything Habibi Center has helped me with until now. I really don’t know how I would’ve done this without everyone’s help. My teacher (Stephanie) is the most amazing and inspiring person I’ve ever met in my life. Whenever it comes to helping others she’s the first to be there. One day I would like to be just like her.
Jasmin (Syria) – Student from August 2016 to May 2018
I am Jasmin and I am from Syria. Right now I live with my family in the south of Germany. Everyday I and my siblings go to school and our life is going well, but 3 years ago, I was 15 years old, and it wasn’t like this. I was with my mother, big sister and 4 brothers is Greece. We were in a village where we lived in a big camp with many people who wanted to travel to another country like us but we couldn’t travel because the border between Greece and Germany was closed. It was a very bad life because we lived in a tent and we couldn’t go to school. It was cold then but we didn’t give up.
My brother met a young woman who made a place to teach young people how to read and write because there were too many people who didn’t know how to read in their mother language. From the beginning I heard that she made bread for people who didn’t have money, then she made a place, which is called Habibi Center. I didn’t go there but my brother went because he needed to go more than me. After 4 months, I started to go and learn English and Maths. I learned how to read and write in English and so many funny things. But luck wasn’t with us because she planned to move the school to the capital of Greece. In that time we couldn’t change our place because of our organisation. I was sad but it wasn’t the end, don’t stop reading.
After 4 months our organization told us that we have to go to the same city where my teacher was. I was happy to hear that. We changed our place to the capital city of Greece. My teacher rented a house there and started to teach English. She had so many students from all the world. Some other teachers wanted to teach there too. I can’t explain how friendly and lovable they were. In short, they are the best people I met in my life.
After the hard times, I was enthusiastic to learn more English but it was nicer when I met a friend who wanted to learn too. She was Bushra and she is the same age as me and she also came from Syria. We improved our English very fast that’s why we did B1 together. Before she came to that class I did the A2 exam with other students. Every day I had 2 hours with students who were in the same level as me. Some of them had school before that course but they came because they liked to have lessons with our teacher.
I will never forget what I learned from her and I am going to do the same thing as her one day and help people. There are too many things I would like to tell you about but it’s going to be too long. I admire people who think about other people.
Raid (Iraq) – Student from August 2016 to October 2017
My name is Raid. I am 17 years old and I am from Iraq. When I was in Turkey I was trying to learn English because I knew that English is very important and global. After the borders opened between Turkey and Greece, we came by boat to Greece.
Before Habibi Center was founded I met the teachers at Habibi Kitchen which was a kitchen that cooked food for us and all the refugees who were in that camp. I was helping them in the kitchen. Actually I was not thinking of studying English at the kitchen but they told me and other guys that we have to learn English one hour every day and I was so happy to have this opportunity because it was always my dream to speak English fluently. After the kitchen was closed Steph and Toby, who were working as volunteers and teaching us English in the kitchen at the same time, decided to open the Habibi Center.
At the beginning of Habibi Center I could not actually go to Habibi Center every day because I was often busy with translating in hospitals inside the camp. I was going to Habibi whenever I had time because I knew that I can improve my English. We were going to Habibi Center on foot but then they rented a bus. The bus was coming to the camp, picking us up and bringing us to camp after school. After, UNHCR decided to separate the people who were in the camp, taking part of us to another village, but the teachers did not leave us. They had the bus pick us up from there also and bring us to Habibi Center.
After almost six months, UNHCR decided to move us again but this time was to Athens. After this decision I lost hope of ever going to Habibi Center and it was very difficult for me to leave people that I spent the best days of my life with and people that taught me English. After we moved, the teachers came to us in Athens. One teacher left because he had to go back home and there was only one teacher with us, which was Steph. She said that we are gonna open Habibi Center here. I was surprised and at the same time happy. I said that is gonna be great and I will be able to improve my English more and more.
Steph could not find somewhere to teach us in the beginning. Then she said that we will go to an Internet Café to study on the computers. We were doing our tasks in English and Math and sending on the internet to our teachers in Spain and England. Steph helped us and taught us to work and she and Toby and Alex were uploading tasks. We were doing these tasks and sending back to them to check it. After a couple days, Steph found an apartment and we were going there every day.
After studying for almost six months in Athens, the teachers came up with an idea of doing Cambridge exams. At the beginning I did not know anything about that but Steph explained to us how it is. I took A2 exam and I did not pass. Then, after 2-3 months I tried again and this time I passed. After my friends and I passed A2 exam, she started to prepare us for B1 exam. At this time my family was accepted to go to Germany. Two of my friends did not take B1 exam because they went to Germany before the exam. Two other friends and I took the B1 exam. After we took the exam, we came to Germany. I was very happy when I heard that I passed the exam and then, after Steph got a Certificate, she sent it to me to Germany
After being here in Germany for almost one year Steph asked me and my friends if we can meet again and we said okay. Then she came to Germany with Adam and taught us English here also. She wanted us to do B2 exam. We studied English for almost three weeks but we did not take the B2 exam because we did not have enough time to study for it. But we learned a lot of things.
I am now living in Germany and I am still able to speak English. I will take the B2 exam as soon as I get enough education for it. I always say that I was lucky to meet these kind people. I am very happy that I was a student in Habibi Center and I thank the teachers and everyone who made this great school possible.
From my heart, Raid Youssef
Sherif (Syria) – Student from January 2019 to November 2019
I’m Sherif. I was a student in Habibi Center for 10 months. I was studying at another school before Habibi Center. Then my old school closed and my teacher told me: “there is another school and we will go there to register you”. I accepted immediately because I wanted to improve my English language and I did not want to stop halfway. Then I went and spoke with the new teacher and I took a simple test to find out my level and the right class for me.
The next day of the registration was my first day in school. I was not comfortable because the place, students and teachers were new to me. In very short time it became very comfortable for me, I got used to the place and I made many new friendships.
There is usually a distance between students and teachers, but here we felt as if teachers were our friends and our siblings.
In those 10 months, I learned a lot and my English improved a lot. With the help of teachers and the school I could take the KET Cambridge exam, and I passed it with high marks I’d never expected! This is all thanks to the teaching and effort of teachers with me and with all students. The level of education is high and that helped me to improve more and more.
I spent a really great time in Habibi Center with lovely friends and teachers while I was studying there. I hope I’ll be back there someday to visit that cosy place and their great people.
Thanks to Habibi Center and to everyone who makes it possible!
Marwa (Afghanistan) – Student from March 2018 to May 2019
It was a warm day of March when I came to a shelter. I couldn’t speak English but I could understand a bit. I was worried about my future and what will happen. All that without being able to communicate very well.
After a couple of days the social worker of my shelter told me that I will go to an English school called Habibi Center to learn English. In those days I wasn’t well because I missed my family and it was almost 3 months I left them. After 3 months I had found a place where I felt safe and I thought: “okay, I will go but I don’t have money to pay”. With so much suffering I told my social worker: “I don’t want to go because I don’t have money to pay for going to this English school”. She laughed and said: “you don’t need to pay. It’s a free school. You can go and learn English without paying”. I couldn’t believe and she told me that some girls of my shelter were already going to Habibi Center. When the girls of my shelter came from school I asked one of them and she told me: “yeah, Habibi Center is for us like our second home and you don’t need to pay for learning there”.
I was still doubtful but the next day came and I prepared myself to go there with one of the girls because I didn’t know how to get there. When I reached the school, a girl opened the door and I saw an angel with a peaceful smile. She welcomed us and then she gave me a small test to know my level. After that test she told me: “you are good at learning and there is no need you start in Basic English”. I started coming to Habibi Center every day from 10:00 to 11:30.
I remember that every day I was with a special passion and interest in coming to class and day by day I improved and I made friends. I remember every night that I thought about Habibi Center before going to sleep.
The days quickly passed until my teacher said: “we are near to a big exam and you all guys should more push themselves for this exam. That moment I couldn’t understand which exam he was talking about and why we should take this exam. And I was a little bit shy and I didn’t ask about the details of this exam. After class I asked my friends and they told me: “it’s a Cambridge English exam and there is one every 6 months in Athens. The school will pay for it and we can get a certificate from Cambridge to show how much we learned English and open a shine way for our future because English is nowadays an international language”. When I heard all of that I was in shock and I couldn’t express my emotions about how nice my teachers were to sacrifice their time and money to help us to learn a language. That day tears ran down my face and I cried inconsolably. I will never forget that unforgettable day.
Everyday we were going to Habibi Center with willpower and a hard working attitude to pass the Cambridge exam. The day of the exam came and I remembered I had stress but, when I looked at my teacher how they encouraged us for take a good result, my stress changed to power, not only for taking a good result but to make them happy for all the hard work they did for us.
After that exam I took an A2 Certificate and because I had to travel to Netherlands for living l couldn’t continue at Habibi Center.
It was the 5th of May when I left my sweet home, Habibi Center. And on the 8th of May I also left Greece to go to the Netherlands. I should mention that by the blessing of Habibi Center I can speak well English in here and express myself in English.
Sometimes when people ask me: “how did you learn English?”, I tell them about Habibi Center and my teachers. They can’t believe that within a year I was able to learn English so well.
I appreciate my teachers and I want to say thank you for all the hard work and sacrifice teaching English to refugees’ girls and boys to have a good future.
You are unforgettable in our hearts.
With love from the bottom of my heart,
Nargis (Afghanistan) – Student from August 2017 to April 2019
I am Nargis. I am 19 years old. I am from Afghanistan and I am living in Athens, Greece. It was two years ago when I met my future teacher in my shelter. That time I was living in Attiki. One day I was studying with my computer teacher in the corridor. It was in the afternoon when I saw that two girls came in my shelter. “Who are they?” I asked my social worker. “They are volunteers. They are teaching English,” she told me. Then my future teacher came and said hello to me. We met each other and she explained to me about her work in Greece and invited me to attend her classes. When I heard that, I was excited. I went to tell my social worker that I wanted to join Habibi Center, but she ignored me. “We don’t allow you because that area is dangerous for girls,” she said. But I didn’t give up and one day I called my future teacher and I said to her, “I want to be your student”. I was worried if she didn’t accept me, but when I called her and I asked, “can I attend your class?” she said, “Of course you can”. I felt a positive energy. When she invited me to see the school it was unbelievable because she came and picked me up from the metro station. I was surprised because I had never seen something like that in my whole life, even in my country. Her behaviour was so good and friendly. The first week that I came to Habibi Center I hid it from my shelter. After that, I explained to my shelter that there was a good teacher in that centre and she taught me very well. Finally, my shelter allowed me to go there.
It was very difficult for me to come to Habibi Center because I had Greek school and English class and I didn’t have time to eat lunch because I was finishing my Greek school at 2:30pm and I arrived to Habibi Center at 3:20pm. I loved the way my teacher taught me. I was very interested in Habibi Center. She also encouraged me to keep studying. It was like my sister was talking to me. I went to many courses in Athens, but I didn’t find out anything like Habibi Center. The other schools taught me the same lessons every day. For example, if one new student came to class, the teachers taught us the same things. Also, when teachers changed for a new one, we repeated again and again. I was bored with those lessons, so in Habibi Center I found my future. I have been there since 2017. Habibi Center has helped me to get three Cambridge certificates. Speaking, reading and writing in English and everything else that I have achieved are because of the hard work of my teachers.
Then, I changed my teacher for some months and I met other of my best teachers. I was fasting so I didn’t eat during the day. Also, I had Greek school, but I didn’t stop coming to Habibi Center because that new teacher taught us very well. I was working hard, but I missed her classes because I was looking for a job. My teachers encouraged me to be an independent person. They helped me and they taught me how to speak to get the job and how to write the CV. So I got the job and I was very happy. But I was stressed and very worried about my English classes. I said to myself, “if I leave Athens and I come back, will she accept me to continue my studies in Habibi Center or not?” So I asked my teacher and she told me that there was no problem. I was very excited that I heard this from her.
I don’t have my family with me. That time I wanted to start my job, but I didn’t have even one euro to live one month on my own until I took my first salary. My teachers helped me and they lent me money. From that time until now I don’t think the Habibi Center is only a school for me. It is also my family. I have learned how to help each other, how to be friendly and how to respect each other. When I am going there I feel I am in my home with my family. The behaviour of my teachers is very nice and friendly. I have never forgotten the day when I had exams in my Greek school. I came back from my work in Santorini and my flight was at 12 o’clock in the midnight and it was delayed for one hour. It was very late in the night and my teachers came to pick me up to the station. It was again surprising for me and I cried. When they hug me I felt I was not alone anymore. I have some family in Habibi Center.
After a few months, I finished with my job and I came back to Athens. I started again my studies in Habibi Center. This time I changed again my teacher. He is other of my best teachers. I changed my time to go there in the evenings and it was late and dark to go back home. Sometimes, my teachers came with me to the metro station and sometimes until my shelter.
I think that I didn’t pass the B1 exam because when I went for work I had spoken in Greek and I stopped my English studies. But I didn’t give up and I kept trying and trying. I attended all classes and I studied hard. Also, it was thanks to the hard work of my teachers that I passed the B1 exam.
I am very happy that I have them with me. I really love them. They are the best teachers in my whole life.