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In 2016 I volunteered for a small NGO called Lighthouse Relief - which had been set up in 2015 in response to the numbers of refugees arriving on the shores of Lesvos. (

In the small fishing village of Skala in the northern part of the island the Lighthouse Relief workers camp was situated in an olive grove along the dirt road leading out the northern edge of the village. Among the tents  of donated clothes, water, emergency blankets and food stores an outdoor work space had been set up to initiate an up-cycling project, to re-purpose the hundreds of rubber dinghies and thousands of life jackets scattered on the beaches, restoring the shorelines to their natural environment.

Night watch at Korakas, and assisting with landings; providing water, food, blankets and dry clothes to refugees arriving on the local shores, were my main duties as a volunteer. However, during the day time and in between landings my main role was launching the up-cycling project.

With the number of landings reducing the NGO  had already begun to focus on cleaning the local beaches and re-purpose the materials that would otherwise be heading to landfills. With knowledge and experience in leather craft I applied similar techniques to design bags and accessories from parts of rubber boats and life jackets.

My brief was to create uncomplicated designs to be replicated by other volunteers and sold online to generate awareness and funds for the NGO. We had no electricity and few tools, therefore the designs had to be simple and effective. After many hours of playing with the rubber material and trialling various designs I began to teach others how to make the four most popular items.

Having made templates for each design, volunteers with little or no experience using craft tools, were able to replicate the items through attending one of my workshops. With no electricity and few tools in the camp, the items I designed were made with just a metal ruler, cutting knife and cutting mat with no additional materials required, (other than materials bought back from the beaches). A slit and tuck design (often used in leather craft) enabled a technique for joining two pieces together, like barbed arrow heads. No glue or stitching making it easier for stencils to be made and accuracy to be assured.These items continued to be produced at the camp and sold online, long after my time in Lesvos.

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