Refugee Gear: Immediate funding needs

Technological products for refugee support along the Balkan Trail

There are several projects in the area of open technology, that are started or at least defined well enough to be viable products for the international refugee support needs, but also sometimes for the Greek local communities. They all need further development which means funding. So the list below shows them, to let interested funders choose what to support.

1 Distribution & Information: Refugee Supply Channel (stage one)

The RSC project aims to integrate the refugee support campaigns and long-term operations with local Balkan and the Greek economy, thus using the help funds twice: to provide refugees (and volunteers on the ground) with quality, locally sourced, goods and services AND directing the flow of money to these local entities which area socially aware and which support solidarity movement. The background of it is presented in

Ultimate goal

The final goal is to develop a network of social cooperatives, in Greece and throughout the „Balkan Trail”, to operate funding, information and delivery system for the refugees. This is a long-term and complex project, so we decided to include only first stage here. It assumes building initial information system, a directory of entities, to support purchasing and funding decisions on a local/retail level; transparent fundraising system for bulk purchases of good and an open, non-proprietary platform for volunter teams to share information and communication.

Current status

The project is defined, there is a makeshift directory instance ( ) and initial IT solutions are identified. We are in a search for a programmer to provide some glue to put together ready-made „blocks” of software and for the people on the ground to provide the content.

Milestone to reach

The milestone we want to reach in this stage is defined by:

  • Having an operational, self-serviced directory of local business entities, submitted and recommended by the volunteers, available publicly as a guideline.
  • Having a transparent fundraising and follow-up website to run funding and delivery campaigns, with the tracking feature to let funders see what happens with their money.
  • Having an open platform for volunteer groups to put their information resources online in a safe environment, under their control.

ToDo list & timeframe

  1. Setting up a separate domain and safe hosting. The best available provider is on Iceland. They run 100% on the green energy and they are fully committed to protect free speech and privacy of their customers. It is important, as there is growing tension around the refugees inflow and we expect some radical moves, including attacks (legal and not) on pro-refugees websites and initiatives. Time needed: 48 hrs.
  2. Installing WordPress content management system and plugins to run: business directory, fundraising campaigns and volunteer group websites. Time needed: 48 hrs.
  3. Configure and set up the interface. Start populating the directory. Time needed: 72 hrs.
  4. Set up the groups website system and document repository. To be determined in cooperation with interested parties.
  5. Setting up the fundraising system for internal purposes. Approximately a week (a lot of external arrangements needed).
  6. Setting up a fundraising system for the volunteer groups: to be determined with interested parties.

Funding needed

Approximate funding needed for start is at the level of 500 Euro. It is needed to cover a yearly fees for hosting and some plugin modules. Further funding will be secured through the fundraising website.

2 Refugee Gear: SuperTarp, a convertible poncho.

SuperTarp is a universal traveler item, to be used mostly as a thermal/waterproof poncho, a tarp, sleeping envelope, half-tent or even bathtub.

Detailed information can be found at

Ultimate goal

We plan to develop SuperTarp as an open licence industrial product, available for all interested parties to produce in a simple environment (sewing machines and some hand tools) from cheap materials (cost of one item around 7 Euro) without the need for skilled workers. Full design and production documentation will be published. We will also organize first production hub in Thessaloniki. The target group are refugees, but also everyone who needs a lightweight, efficient camping item.

Current status

We have made the second prototype. We also have already decided the final technology to be used. There is a small group of people (mostly unemployed Greek women) keen to start production. We have a go-to clothing design consultant available.

Milestone to reach

We want do get to the point where we have a series of 10 SuperTarps manufactured and presented (sent) to major volunteer groups for assessment. Upon their request, we will be able to start fundraising campaign to finance long-series production. At the same time we will be ready to teach interested people how to produce SuperTarps on their own.

ToDo list & timeframe

1. Make 2 pcs of the third prototype – final technology check, adjustments, cost calculation.

2. Identify bulk material sources and necessary services needed. Close the price deals.

3. Set up the manufacturing hub. Train people, contact possible adopters.

4. Buy materials and launch first series.

5. Send the samples out to the field testers. Ask for opinion and and delivery requests.

Overall time, if everyting goes smoothly: ~6 weeks.

Funding needed

Final development: approximately 100 Euro.

First series production and shipment: approximately 100 Euro

3 Refugee Gear: chemical body warmer.

Sodium Acetate (CH3COONa, also abbreviated NaOAc) body warmer ( is a rechargeable chemical „heat accumulator”, that can store heat – typically from hot water) and release it on demand, providing safe and comfortable protection against hypothermia.

It is best for using within thermal blanket, sleeping bag or just under the clothing, if we need quick and efficient, non-toxic and no-flame heat source.

It can be stored long time, without loosing charge, and used within minutes, for example on the beach, where the refugees are retirved from the sea.

The number of recharging cycles is unlimited.

Ultimate goal

We want to start mass production of body warmers in two sizes: bigger, for rescue teams to use when getting people out of the water, as an emergency hypothermia treatment and smaller, personal, for refugees to carry along their way, as a backup heat source if they are in danger of hypothermia.

For the personal version we will also establish a chain of recharging/replacement stations, where used warmer can be left for recharging and replaced by a new one.

Current status

We have identified the technology needed. We approached potential manufacturer. We still look for appropriate containers, as there are specific requirements for them.

Milestone to reach

After testing few pieces of a prototype, we want to make a pilot series of 10 rescue (1-2 liter) and 10 personal (500 ml) warmers and send them to arrival zones to be tested by volunteer groups on the ground. If the feedback is positive and delivery requestst follow, we will run a fundraising campaign and start manufacturing. At the same time we will get in touch with the teams along the trail, setting up recharge and replace stations.

ToDo list & timeframe

  1. Meeting potential manufacturer
  2. Identifying local sources of components.
  3. Making and testing first 4 prototypes: 2 rescue, 2 personal.
  4. Calculating production costs.
  5. Launching the pilot series.
  6. Delivering for field tests.

The timeframe – to be defined yet.

Funding needed

Development and prototyping: approximately 100 Euro

Pilot series for field testing: approximately 250 Euro

4 Refugee Gear: The Shelter Bed

This is a simple and affordable construction of a cot/bed, designed with following assumptions:

  • The manufacturing cost at the level of 15 Euro (basic configuration).
  • Made of locally available materials (wood, textile, some metal joining parts, standard PVC tubes or tent poles).
  • Delivered in kits, easy to be assembled (and disassembled) even by refugees themselves, using only screwdriver.
  • Basic configuration being a bed frame (90*200 cm) with stretched fabric and 35 cm legs. The mattress can be added, made of 4-6 layers of bubble wrap (big bubbles).
  • Privacy add-on forming two shelves and a rope (for hanging clothes) across the feet of the bed.
  • Stacking legs, to make a three-level bunk bed. Thicker legs, reinforced and formed to keep the stack safe and stable.
  • Igloo tent, put over two beds connected side by side, to make the whole set a legged 3-person tent.

Ultimate goal

We want to build a set of prototype kits (5 pcs) and a documentation for CNC manufacturing. A video showing various configurations will be made and distributed freely. We also approach potential manufacturers and obtain large-scale offers from them. The product will be offered to all entities managing transit and residence camps and self-organized areas. We will be able to organize fundraising campaigns to finance deliveries.

Current status

Initial design is sketched. Basic material specification and calculation complete.

Milestone to reach

We want to get to the point where we – in cooperation with manufacturer – can offer complete product, ready to be funded, produced and delivered in quantities.

ToDo list & timeframe

  1. Outsourcing 5 basic configuration beds.
  2. Outsourcing 2 privacy add-ons
  3. Outsourcing a set of stacking legs.
  4. Prototyping an igloo tent.
  5. Tests, documentation (CNC and video).
  6. Negotiating with manufacturer.
  7. Presentation online.

Timeframe – to be determined.

Funding needed

Overall funding for the whole process: approximately 250 Euro.

This document in PDF format: Refugee_gear_immediate_funding

One comment on “Refugee Gear: Immediate funding needs
  1. Petros says:

    Progress report #1

    Now, when Steve is away, helping other people, let me directly keep you updated what is going on with in the “refugee gear” area. This report is going to be long, as it covers some general topics. Next ones will be shorter, I promise.

    We agreed that the three most disastrous factors for the refugees and the volunteers are cold, rain and chaos.

    So, out of the list I prepared, three items stand out:

    • the body warmer
    • the SuperTarp poncho
    • the information and supply system.

    As you can read above, the financial needs to start production are modest and we have it partially covered thanks to you. So we can go ahead:

    1. The body warmer.

    The body warmer is the first in the queue, due to three major reasons:

    • The winter is coming. Warming up people, especially when rescued from the sea, is a life-critical thing. Available alternatives boil down to a bonfire at the beach or a hot water flask — none of them really practical.
    • All materials are available in Greece. This part is important, because manufacturing industry has been practically killed here, especially the component manufacturing (see below, where I discuss the SuperTarp problem). So, having a simple product, that can be made 100% locally is a great boost.
    • We (probably) have a manufacturer ready. With Steve, we have visited VioMe cooperative — an icon of workers’ self-organisation in Thessaloniki and Greece. They are technically ready to start produce body warmers almost immediately. I am waiting for their decision and from that moment we probably need no more than week (tests and purchase of materials) until we have a test batch ready to be shipped.

    As you see, we are really quite close to start.

    2. The SuperTarp.

    Running the production of SuperTarp is much more complex. First, materials. We need about 6 square meters of fabric (tarpauline like), 2 meters of zipper, 2 meters of cord, several minor items per one piece. And we want to get to the level of 200 to 500 SuperTarps produced per day (conservatively). It means that we have to secure 100 kG to 250 kG components brought in and the same amount of ready made SuperTarps shipped out — every day. So, before we can start raising funds for the mass production, we have three challenges:

    • Finishing Mark 2 prototype (zippers, all-sewn construction, hood and skirts regulation with velcro patches — that’s Steve), possibly in 2-3 sizes.
    • Fixing goods and services sources. We need to outsource cutting — it has to be machinized — and button holes sewing (instead of grommets). We need to buy the textile from the roll, textile tape for holders, zippers and rope in bulks.
    • And finally we need to find an initial manufacturer, with machinery and people ready to take the project over and run it (with me spreading the technology further, for decentralisation).

    I keep in mind that the people keep needing the raingear and the winter is close. So, there are things I am doing now:

    • Buying time. I fixed a good source of 12 000 military rain jackets in Poland. At the half price compared with SuperTarp, (3.5 Euro vs. 7 Euro), they provide good quality rain protection and will last long enough for the whole trip. I am waiting for the first batch to arrive ( and as soon as we have a confirmation of quality from Lesvos people, I will start continuous fundraising to keep the stuff coming. It will cover the basic needs of refugees and give us time to go ahead with SuperTarp.
    • Finding local contacts. Today I am seeing the head of a local industrial chamber and I will try to get some recommendations and introductions. They have the best insight into the situation here and if they endorse me, it should be much easier to start serious talks with the manufacturers and suppliers.
    • Getting ahead with the prototype. As soon as I get a contact, I will simply buy more components and make 2 pieces of Mark 2.

    3. RefugeeSupport.Net

    Communication and information is the only remedy for chaos or waste of resources. Thanks to your support, yesterday I set up a separate website, under the general address

    It is located on Icelandic servers (100% green power, ethical hosting and strongly free-speech oriented company, called
    The first service I want to start is a yellow pages directory, to provide information about retail vendors, wholesalers and service providers recommended by the volunteers as refugee-friendly. In a broader perspective, it will provide also information for the volunteers looking for accommodation, transport etc. etc.

    I have installed the basic directory software and started configuring it. The directory will be available at (currently it is in a test phase, with some dumb data entered just to play with).
    In next few days I plan to:

    • Finish the test installation configuration (covers the town of Mitilini on Lesvos island).
    • Populate it with the seed data of some 12-15 entities.
    • Invite volunteers from the ground — especially those who just finished their tour — to help putting more data in.
    • If it gets traction, the next step will be to install premium (paid) version of the system and to expand it throughout all area of Greece and the Balkan Trail.

    As soon as we know how the yellow pages develop, there are more services to be added, to help get the volunteer activity more efficient. Some of them:

    • Infokiosk. A website to maintain all information needed for a volunteer to get prepared, arrive safely, stay comfortably and depart only unhappy because leaving. 🙂 It will be self-maintained and connecting to the yellow pages section.
    • Fundraising. Through an umbrella social cooperative we will start running fundraising campaigns. The online service will make it easy and cheap. We will use it for our needs, but mostly we will serve volunteers and their groups. The service will assume optional, voluntary fee (when making a donation, funder will be able to choose if they want to support Refugee Support Net with a small predefined cut).
    • Best practices. We will build a communication platform for the groups wishing to share and discuss best solutions they use (like package marking systems, food preparation/distribution procedures, media communication — anything in the area of operations). We will try to host this discussion, to let people publish “the best agreed practices” and subsequently to include them in the groups’ local standards.

    Thank you for reading this lengthy piece. You are invited to comment below. And, if you feel like helping in a practical way, please let me know. In this project there is much more need for human help at the computer or on the ground than for the money. Besides, it is more fun. 😉


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