(Lesvos, Greece) – When migrants and refugees arrive in Greece by sea, they are often wearing life jackets. Because they no longer need them after they safely make it to shore, they often leave them on the beaches where their boats landed. The end result is that there are often hundreds of life jackets littering some of the beaches on islands such as Lesvos, Chios, and Samos. Not only that, but many of the refugees end up on these Greek islands with few possessions, which means that luxuries such as mattresses are often nonexistent. Their only hope is if someone gives them a bed and mattress to sleep on.
Volunteers on the island of Lesvos have solved both of these problems. By making mattresses out of these discarded life jackets, they are not only cleaning up the trash that is on the beaches, but they are also giving the refugees a more comfortable place to sleep. Earlier this year, volunteers on Lesvos, the island with the highest number of refugees, began creating these mattresses. Two volunteers from Denmark, Mads Damgaard Peterson and Anezka Sokol, came up with the idea after noticing that many refugees were using the life jackets to sit on. They knew that they could be turned into mattresses that would help people have a more comfortable night’s sleep if they had to sleep on the ground. The foam the life jackets are made of is not only comfortable, but it’s also a great insulator.
In 2015, around 1 million refugees arrived in Europe by sea. About half this number ended up on the island of Lesvos. Most of the trash from discarded life jackets was taken to a municipal dump, a fact which originally made the refugees uncomfortable when presented with a mattress. Now, the design hides the fact that the mattresses are made from the life jackets by encasing them in a tent-like material.