Last year, I took a 2-semester human-centered design course at USC called Innovating for Global Challenges. The class is aimed at generating solutions to global crises, the refugee crisis for my cohort, in a team-based, multidisciplinary structure.
This class included two trips to Greece where cohort members were able to interview refugee families to understand the problem space.
The Research Trip
In the fall semester of my sophomore year, me and 15 other students travelled to Lesvos, Greece to observe the refugee crisis first-hand. We were able to visit two refugee camps, talk to many different stakeholders, and build connections with refugee families. Through this research, I observed two large issues.
As NGOs give standardized aid packages with the assumed necessitates, refugees are stripped of their ability to live in their own way. On the other hand, donations coming in from abroad are often repetitive and unneeded. We found that each refugee was able to get 3-4 jackets if they wanted.
As the refugee crisis silences the tourism industry in receiving cities, local stores lose a significant portion of their business. In Lesvos, almost 50% of stores have closed since the crisis began.
Following the trip, we understood 2 things very clearly. Refugees need more autonomy in the aid they receive in order to successfully resettle their lives and local economies in crisis regions deserve to be acknowledged a source of supplies.
Examining the Issue at Home
After seeing the inefficiencies of the current aid system, we began seeking opportunities to get foreign donors involved to help these families. We talked to a variety of potential donors to ensure that we had a holistic view of philanthropic sentiments.
Overwhelming, the main takeaway was: