Boats upcycled into bags amid a refugee crisis

They pay an exorbitant US$1,000, board a small dinghy crammed with 59 other people and start the dangerous journey. All while hoping and praying that this time they will actually make it to Greece.

It’s the largest refugee crisis since 1950. Last year saw hundreds of thousands of people fleeing wars in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. People are also fleeing threats in countries like Somalia and Pakistan and oppressive regimes in Iran and Egypt.

We are only three months into 2016 and yet the numbers are even more staggering. In January, 67,000 refugees and migrants arrived in Greece, a figure that is almost 40 times compared to 12 months ago. By the end of February, that figure has climbed to 130,000.

The majority of these refugees make the journey from Turkey and land on a Greek island called Lesbos.

There is a ray of light to this story

While these statistics are appalling, what often gets overlooked is the vast amount of discarded plastic that gets dumped on the island once the refugees disembark from the boats. There is a ray of light though in the form of amazing volunteers.

Lesbos island has approximately 30,000 cubic metres of plastic from discarded boats and jackets. After volunteering with the refugee crisis on Lesbos in January, Amsterdam-born Floor Nagler noticed that refugees needed bags. With the amount of discarded plastic on their hands, why not upcycle it to make bags.

Nagler partnered up with Dutch designer Didi Aaslund and together they came up with an easy way to make a bag using minimal equipment. The production also needed to be simple enough so that when they taught the refugees how they could make their own bags, it would be possible even though they don’t all speak the same language.

Boats to bags 3

At the end of February, the pair returned to Lesbos to teach the refugees. All that is required to make a bag is a folded piece of boat material, punch pliers, riveting guns and the buckles and straps from life jackets.

Nagler, Aaslund and a group of volunteers founded the initiative It Works, that aims to bring empowering skills to the people arriving in Lesbos.

Boats to bags 2

With the latest agreement between the EU and Turkey, things are changing drastically in Greece. The It Works team will likely leave Lesbos soon, but aim to continue their initiative in other parts of the country.

Watch the amazing work that these volunteers are doing, to give something small back to a group of people who need it the most.

To help buy tools and set up these upcycling workshops, It Works rely on donations. Visit their donation page if you want to give to a worthwhile cause or simply keep up-to-date on their work via their Facebook page.

Images via: It Works Facebook page

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