[ 7 Aug 2019 — Originally posted on Low-tech with Refugees ]
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It’s the beginning of August, and summer has well and truly arrived on the Greek island of Lesvos, the home of Low-tech with Refugees. The team has grown and now consists of over 10 full-time people, the majority of whom are asylum seekers living in Moria Camp. Our workshop building, the ‘Low-tech Makerspace’ welcomes approximately 200 people a month, catering to a diverse set of needs, in particular providing the tools and expertise for reparations of almost anything! Simultaneously, the team works on other sustainability driven actions, discover more below:
Low-tech solutions for the summer:
Staying cool during the hot summer months when you live in a container or tent without access to electric appliances can seem impossible, making life unbearable. At Low-tech with Refugees we’ve been developing some simple, small-scale solutions to stay cool which are easy & free to make and accessible to everyone.
Our low-tech version of the ‘Desert Fridge’ or ‘Zeer Pot’ is a cooling box which provides the possibility to store fruit and vegetables for longer without the need for electricity. The idea has been adapted from a method commonly used in West Africa using clay pots and the principle of ‘evaporative cooling’. Our low-tech version is created from upcycling tins, and old garden hoses. It keeps a number of degrees cooler than the outside temperature — how much depends on the humidity and wind!
Water bottle coolers are the essence of low-tech. It uses the same principle of evaporative cooling; the water bottle is covered in fabric (we like using old jumpers) which if kept wet, cools the water inside! We’ve tested the efficiency of these coolers and found they keep the water up to 10 degrees cooler than the outside temperature.
Stay tuned for the updated tutorials to be added on the open-source wiki platform of the Low-tech Lab.
Skill development training:
During June and July the Low-tech Makerspace hosted a bicycle mechanics training for 3 weeks. The team welcomed Hannah Hughs from the UK who taught 7 refugees from 3 different camps how to construct and repair bicycles from A to Z. The participants not only learnt theory and practical skills, but put their new found knowledge to the test from week 1 by helping during the drop-in repair sessions — learning by doing! The participants are now competent mechanics, some of whom help support the Low-tech Makerspace workshop, others will support a new workshop at Pikpa Solidarity Camp, all of whom have a new professional skill to take with them wherever they end up in the future.
It all started with the idea of making ceramic water filters; an ecological way to provide clean drinking water without the need for plastic bottles. Plastic bottles create a big waste problem in Greece, not to mention in the refugee camps where every resident is allocated 2 bottles of water per day, regardless of the outside temperature. After starting some ceramics activities, we found that there was a huge interest to learn in all of the local community, but a lack of skilled ceramicists to teach. The team repaired an old kiln, which now has its own ceramics house in the One Happy Family Community Center, made a low-tech pottery wheel, and runs weekly workshops with a Greek teacher using locally sourced clay. Residents of the camps now have the opportunity to be autonomous in creating their own cups, bowls, plates etc. a sustainable and free solution in comparison to plastics or glass.
Community building events:
Low-tech with Refugees does not only cater to refugees, our objective is to be a participatory workshop for all residents on Lesvos. We especially value the participation of the local population, to promote sustainable solutions and break down barriers between different communities. During June and July the team organised two events in the town of Mitilini. The first, a bicycle repair event held at the offices of the NGO ‘Office of Displaced Designers’ in which locals were invited to bring and learn how to repair their broken bicycles. The second, held in the co-working office of ‘Open Space’, was a Pop-up electronics repair event. Locals brought their broken electronic equipment and were taught how to repair by team members Akbari and Marcel, meanwhile Mehdi was teaching how to make up-cycled power banks.
We like to share and spread our low-tech creativity with as many people as possible..to do this the team collaborates with a variety of NGOs to promote eco-friendly solutions. Some examples of ‘greening activities’ from the past two months are a workshop held in the Mandala Children Project run by Refugee for Refugees to create a herb-spiral and vertical gardens from upcycling plastic bottles. More recently, the team is collaborating with Office of Displaced Designers to design a community garden/space on the outskirts of ‘The Jungle’ (unofficial camp) to create a beautiful looking and smelling space for people to relax, enjoy and escape the heat. Thanks to the many enthusiastic volunteers we have managed to create two terraces, using the local stone-wall technique; as soon as the heat subsides it will be time for planting!