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Over three million refugees entered the EU between 2012 and 2016, and thousands continue to arrive every day. According to the UN Refugee Agency, more people are displaced today than ever before in history—even more than during World War II.
This is an overwhelming problem to read about, but even more overwhelming to experience firsthand. While visiting Lesbos, Greece in 2015, Americans Zoë Pappis and Alexander Schultz witnessed the crisis for themselves—and decided they had to take action to help.
That action resulted in the Zoë band, which is hands down the most brilliant recycling-for-a-cause effort I’ve seen.
Zoë bands are fashionable bracelets (see photo) made by local Lesbos seamstresses from discarded refugee life jackets. Virtually all the proceeds go to local relief charities, thereby making a tangible positive difference in the lives of the refugees on Lesbos. Zoë and Alexander donate their time promoting, selling, and delivering the bands; here’s a breakdown of the cost of a band, which starts at $30. About $7.50 of the cost of each band goes to covering logistics and providing employment for local seamstresses and other partners—creating much-needed income on an island that’s been hit hard by both the Greek financial crisis and the influx of refugees. The remainder of the band’s price goes to helping the refugees. And, of course, every Zoë band is made from the material of a discarded life vest—recycling nylon that would otherwise likely end up being trashed, an undesirable end for a material that’s slow to decompose and releases toxic gasses when burned.
But there are additional benefits to the Zoë band: it’s a reminder, and a conversation starter. Having one on your wrist connects you to the brave displaced people who risked everything for a better life, and when you get the inevitable question “what’s up with the bracelet?” you’re able to deepen that connection—you can engage in a dialog about the refugee crisis, and how just about anyone can help make the situation a tiny bit less tragic.
I ordered Zoë bands for my wife, my son, and myself earlier this year; we wear them daily and eagerly share their story with anyone who asks. We know the impact we might have is infinitesimally small compared to the magnitude of the crisis, but if each of us does one small thing to contribute to a solution, we can’t help but create the main thing all refugees—really, all of us—seek: hope.
A couple practical notes on the bands:
Please join us by visiting www.getazoeband.com today to order your bracelet. And please spread the word by sharing this post!