A team of innovators wants to change a common scene of crisis depicted in our minds when we think about refugee camps. What they did will blow your mind.
The Story of Ahmad
Ahmad’s world went dark at age 22 when he was shot across the eyes during the Syrian civil war.
But everything changed after two years, when a Syrian refugee named Asem came across a startup called Refugee Open Ware. Here, he learned to build a customized echolocation device for Ahmad that fits over his hand.
How is it helping Ahmad? The device uses vibrations to indicate the distance of the objects that are in his environment, helping him walk by himself again.
“For two years, I haven’t felt this feeling — where I walk and know what’s in front of me,” Ahmad said.
Due to a startup called “Refugee Open Ware”, a fellow refugee was able to build Ahmad’s new echolocation device. The founders of Refugee Open Ware look at refugee camps and see more than devastation — they see possibility.
The Refugee Open Ware is a series of fabrication labs or “fab labs” located in crisis areas, which is founded by Loay Malahmeh and Dave Levin. Asem, the man who created Ahmad’s new device, is one of the many refugees who are learning to 3D-print and code at the said fab lab.
“We want to take the most advanced technology and put it in the hands of those who need it the most,” Levin said.
Refugee Open Ware gives refugees access to digital manufacturing technologies.
The plan is to stock each Refugee Open Ware fab lab with scanners, milling machines, vinyl cutters, laser cutters, and 3D-printers.
They’ll also be loaded with lathes, welding equipment, handcrafting tools, band saws, and table saws. The kinds of items you’d find in any good metal or woodworking shop.
Trained individuals might print 3D supplies and prosthetics for their fellow refugees using 3D printers similar to the picture above.
While seemingly simple, this equipment opens up new possibilities for many displaced people, inspiring everything from innovative play and learning for kids to simple restorations and skills training for adults. The first Refugee Open Ware pilot program is now up and running in Amman, Jordan.
But Ahmad is not the only one who has a success story.
Another Success Story from a 6-year-old Yemeni Boy
Asem has a story to tell as well. He was a former health care worker and he lost a leg during a bombing before ending up at Refugee Open Ware’s facility in Amman. During his stay in Amman, he was able to make his own prosthetic leg using a 3D printer.
The boy lost his hand in a house fire. He acquired a customized 3D-printed hand, designed to emulate his favorite cartoon superhero, Ben 10. He received it from the Refugee Open Ware team members which they built using local supplies and tool at the cost of only $75.
Asem, a Syrian refugee who lost his leg at age 19 while working as a paramedic in the war, later became a prosthetic technician in Jordan, can be seen sitting next to the 6-year-old Yemeni boy.
Up next for the program: setting up shop in Turkey and Kurdistan.
Malahmeh and Levin’s next goal is to setup their first maker space at the Za’atari refugee camp located on the Jordan-Syria border which happens to be entirely staffed by refugees. As of the moment, they’re awaiting the necessary permit.
Since King Abdullah II and Queen Rania have already given the thumbs-up, the wait shouldn’t be that long.
The Za’atari refugee camp, situated in northern Jordan, houses more than 81,000 Syrians.
Crisis is ever present and it’s just around the corner, but by bestowing new tools and technology, Refugee Open Ware might make refugee camps a space where those at the epicenter of a crisis can send out shock waves of good.
Check out the video below:
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