I’m sitting in Sappho Square, Skala Eressos, drinking coffee with my friend Alison Terry-Evans. Alison is the founder of Dirty Girls of Lesvos, a charity formed out of the refugee crisis on Lesvos. The crisis is still ongoing, Alison is telling me. It has mutated since the EU struck a deal with Erdogan, the president of Turkey. Now, Syrian and Afghani refugees are kept in camps on the Turkish side and not allowed any farther. I dread to think of what those camps are like.
Alison is telling me that things are no better for those stuck in camps on the Greek side either. They are also blocked from moving forward and the camps are degenerating. It’s a squalid bottleneck.
I ask her what can her organisation do now?
How Dirty Girls of Lesvos helps
Things have changed since Alison had the simple - yet genius - idea of laundering and recycling discarded refugee clothing that had previously been thrown into landfill. Alison started an environmentally friendly charity that has saved tens of thousands in funding throughout the world as the larger NGOs now follow her lead. This means donations and tax dollars go further, the local economy benefits, and so does the planet. It’s a win-win-win.
“We concentrate solely on blankets now,” Alison explains. “We launder the blankets the NGOs hand out. Each blanket costs around $9 new and were tossed away when they became too gross. Now we wash as many as we can lay our hands on for $3 each so they are completely reusable. You do the math.”
I’m not the only one to think my friend Alison is a marvel. Last year she was nominated as one of Foreign Policy's Top 100 Global Thinkers and was feted in Washington.
Alison now rubs alongside the likes of Hillary Clinton and Ban-ki Moon. If I stroke her arm I can feel the lustre. Alison laughs, she is not feeling lustrous. She is tired after a long stint at the Hermes laundry.
Dirty Girls is one of Dirt Road Books' chosen charities. By supporting it we can impact on not just the ongoing refugee crisis, but environmental protection and conservation, too. Plus, we have the bonus of global organisations modifying toward a more cost effective work model.
So, never feel that you are too small or in the wrong place to make much of a difference. Every single one of us can make a difference.