Case study: Dirty Girls of Lesvos

CHALLENGE:

How to engage supporters and donors to increase sustainability of the project.

SUMMARY OF HOW THEY OVERCAME THE CHALLENGE:

DGS created a simple, catchy name that helped attract attention to their clear and direct mission. This attracted worldwide attention and support. They have subsequently created a funding stream through the upcycling of material from life jackets into messenger bags.

HOW WAS THE CHALLENGE AFFECTING THEM AND/OR THE PEOPLE THEY WERE HELPING:

DG ​faced ​the ​large ​challenge ​of ​financially sustaining ​an ​independent ​volunteer organization ​within ​an ​ever-changing humanitarian ​context.

To ​wash ​clothes, ​blankets ​and ​other materials ​that ​would ​otherwise ​be ​trashed:

  • Funding ​was ​needed
  • Large ​team ​of ​helpers ​for ​sorting, deliveries ​etc.

Without ​the ​funds ​necessary, ​it ​would ​not be ​possible ​to ​cover ​the ​costs ​of ​washing clothing ​and ​blankets ​following ​WASH standards.

NAME OF ORGANIZATION:

DIRTY GIRLS OF LESVOS

TYPE OF ORGANIZATION:

Small NGO

DESCRIBE THE TEAM:

DIRTY GIRLS was initiated in October 2015 by Alison Terry-Evans, to ensure that good quality wet and dirty clothing, discarded by thousands of refugees arriving by sea on the island of Lesvos, would no longer be trashed. Because the recycled clothes come from other people with similar backgrounds, DIRTY GIRLS could provide clothes to the arriving refugees with more appropriate styles, sizes and modesty levels than what was available with donated clothes.

LOCATION OF ACTIVITY:

Greece: DIRTY GIRLS uses commercial laundries in Lesvos, Athens and Northern Greece.

DESCRIBE THE SOLUTION (what actions did they take, resources they used):

There ​was ​a ​distinct ​shift ​in ​attracting ​donor attention ​because:

  • It’s ​fun: the ​name ​Dirty ​Girls ​was ​attached ​to the ​project ​and ​it ​was ​promoted ​as ​a humanitarian ​and ​environmental group ​with ​an ​element ​of fun ​in ​a milieu ​fraught ​with ​distressing emotions ​and ​sometimes ​fear.
  • A ​Simple ​Purpose: DG ​is ​a humanitarian ​organization ​with ​a strong ​environmental ​imperative doing ​a ​very ​simple ​and ​UNIVERSAL thing: Washing and recycling ​materials. So people can ​IDENTIFY ​with ​them ​and ​they can ​know ​exactly ​how ​their donations ​are ​spent.
  • Find ​your ​Spokesperson: Dirty ​Girls ​quickly ​received ​a ​lot ​of worldwide ​media ​attention, ​which was ​noticed ​not ​only ​by ​people ​who came ​to ​volunteer, ​but ​also ​by various ​celebrities ​who ​sometimes gave ​large ​donations.
  • Build ​a ​community: Volunteer ​identify ​with ​the ​simple cause ​and ​branding ​and ​go ​back home ​and ​hold ​fundraisers ​or approach ​companies ​for ​donations. Lush, ​the ​ethical ​cosmetic ​company, gave ​a ​generous ​donation ​from ​their Charity ​Pot. ​(And ​also ​had ​a ​Dirty Girls ​Moisturizer ​for ​a ​while).

IMPACT IN NUMBERS (How ​many ​people ​benefiting ​from ​this solution? ​How ​many ​deliveries ​did ​they make? ​How ​many ​classes? ​How ​many meals ​cooked?):

Founder ​Alison ​Terry-Evans ​and ​her ​small team ​have

  • saved ​over ​500 ​tons ​of ​clothing ​and blankets ​from ​landfills. ​Traditionally the ​UNHCR ​blankets ​are ​thrown away ​after ​being ​used. ​Washed ​to hospital ​standards ​and ​recycled ​for €3 ​each, ​it ​cost ​less ​than ​replacing them ​for ​€6 ​or ​more ​each. ​So ​far, Dirty ​Girls ​has ​saved ​UNHCR ​donors and ​tax ​payers ​over ​€1,000,000
  • Over ​1,000 ​volunteers ​from ​over ​20 countries ​have ​so ​far ​joined ​Dirty Girls ​as ​humanitarian ​and environmental ​aid ​workers, ​either exclusively ​or ​in ​collaboration ​with other ​organisations
  • Dirty ​Girls ​provides ​washing ​powder each ​week ​for ​3,000 ​people ​to ​wash their ​clothes ​because ​people ​are now ​staying ​for ​extended ​periods ​in camps, ​and ​they ​are ​able ​to ​wash their ​own ​clothes ​in ​hand ​basins.
  • They ​are ​working ​with ​small ​NGOs that ​are ​moving ​families ​from ​the unacceptable ​conditions ​of ​camps into ​apartments. ​Dirty ​Girls purchases ​washing ​machines ​for apartments.
  • Created ​a ​funding ​stream ​through the ​up ​cycling ​of ​material ​from ​life jackets. ​Sewn ​by ​local ​women
  • At ​any ​given ​time, ​twelve ​Greek people ​have ​been ​employed ​by Dirty ​Girls

THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND:

A ​catchy ​name ​with ​clear, ​safe ​and ​simple missions ​that ​address ​environment, humanitarian ​and ​social ​needs.

A ​simple ​purpose ​that ​anyone ​can ​do ​or understand: ​This ​created ​a ​sense ​of empathy ​among ​supporters ​- ​anyone ​can be ​a ​Dirty ​Girl for recycling!

A ​website ​and ​social ​media ​were ​carefully constructed ​to ​attract ​attention. ​Invest ​a small ​amount ​in ​sponsored ​posts!

WHY IS IT A SMART AID?

  • EFFICIENCY: ​DG ​saved ​UNHCR ​over ​a ​million euros ​by ​washing ​their ​blankets ​and they ​efficiently ​gather, ​wash ​and redistributed ​clothes ​to ​camps ​on Lesvos ​that ​needed ​cultural ​and weather ​appropriate ​clothes ​that were ​not ​being ​delivered ​from donations. That is proper recycling.
  • DIGNITY: Clean ​& ​culturally ​appropriate clothes ​make ​a ​huge ​difference ​on people’s ​psychology. They ​also ​always ​employ ​locals ​as ​a way ​to ​put ​the ​investment ​back ​into the ​local ​struggling ​economy.
  • COLLABORATION: ​is ​fundamental ​to the ​success ​of ​DG ​who ​depend ​on other ​volunteers ​and ​NGOs ​to ​give them ​access ​to ​discarded ​garments. Collaboration ​with ​UNHCR ​for ​the blanket ​washing ​has ​been ​difficult.
  • SCALABILITY: DG ​had ​to ​adapt ​to the ​changing ​needs ​of ​refugees ​and small ​organizations ​once ​the ​boats stopped ​arriving ​on ​the ​island. ​They started ​working ​more ​with ​blankets and ​sleeping ​bags ​from ​the ​50 camps ​created ​all ​over ​Greece ​and distributing ​laundry ​detergent.

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