Refugees are up-cycling their discarded life jackets and dinghies

We’re coming to the end of Refugee Week and we can’t let it go by without sharing this very cool project with you! Lesvos Solidarity is a non-profit organisation that not only provides medical support and shelter, but also hosts workshops for refugees in which they up-cycle things such as life jackets and dinghies that pile up on the shores of Lesvos and tell the story of their harrowing journeys across the Aegean sea from Turkey.

no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark
— Warsan Shire (taken from her poem titled 'Home')
Image by Gerd Altmann

Image by Gerd Altmann

The up-cycling projects essentially come in two parts:

Safe Passage Bags

This workshop started back in 2015 and is now one of the prime integration projects at Lesvos Solidarity. Handmade by refugees and locals, these bags are made from life jackets that are left on the shore lines and up-cycled from testaments of forced travel and inhumane treatment into symbols of hope. The bags, which come in various forms and sizes, have so much more about them than being just a bag - they are helping our environment, helping refugees and stand for every person who has had to leave their home behind and take an unimaginably terrifying journey to foreign land.

“Carrying a Safe Passage bag is therefore a reminder: No one leaves their home and no one puts their child on a boat, unless the sea is safer than the land” - Lesvos Solidarity


Humade Craft

This project started in 2017 and is a wonderful way of involving refugees. It’s all about respecting the environment whilst using natural resources and re-using materials. For this, parts of dinghies are recycled to create beautiful and unique necklaces and earrings that have very special meaning. Refugees are often forced to cross seas in dinghies that are filled far over the boat’s capacity and unfit for the journey. So these pieces of jewellery carry the stories of arduous travel across unsafe waters, but also inspire the reuse of materials that would otherwise be left as waste and seemingly useless materials.

“It facilitates the reduction of waste volume, promotion of the art of re-use, cultivation of environmental responsibility, strengthening of the economy, limitation of the over-consumption, while creating remarkable and unique pieces of art” - Lesvos Solidarity

Image by Jim Black

Image by Jim Black

You can get your hands on your very own Safe Passage Bag or Humade Craft, which are for sale on their website. Both projects create a space where refugees, and other inhabitants of Lesvos, can socialise, create, learn and get the psychological and physical support that Lesvos Solidarity can provide for them. NGOs like this play pivotal roles in the lives of displaced people and the work they do is incredible - especially with a focus on our environment.

If you would like to learn more about Lesvos Solidarity and the amazing work they do, click here. If you would like to make a donation, click here.
Warsan Shire is a British-Somali poet and her full poem is available to listen to here.


Written by Charlotte Dautzenberg