VP of Engineering
Traveling to Moria, Greece
Our team traveled to Moria, a refugee camp on the island of Lesvos, Greece twice this past year. As one of the major gateways to Europe from the Middle East, the camp is horribly overcrowded, housing 20,000 refugees fleeing war-torn countries, violence and persecution, in a space meant for 3,000 people. After talking with the refugees and seeing the poor living conditions in camps, we knew we had to do something to help.
Moria, Europe's largest refugee camp.
Winters are freezing, summers are sweltering hot. There's no way to win. We wanted to make a product that could tackle both.
(Image Source: Refugees International 2017)
Identifying the Problem
The majority of refugees live in tents or makeshift shelters, and use plastic tarps and cardboard as protection from the elements. The refugees we interviewed said that one of their top three biggest needs was better shelter to defend the weather because the winters and nights are freezing cold and the summers and days are sweltering hot. In addition to severe temperatures, the lack of airflow in the shelters creates a musty, damp environment. The need to solve the problem of temperature regulation and ventilation in emergency shelters became undeniable.
Finding a Solution
We spent 8 months prototyping, creating ~36 iterations. Our goal was to create a reversible product, which could either keep body heat in or the sun’s heat out. Countless hours were spent researching, manipulating, and testing materials that would be best for insulation. We decided to use a material known as Aluminet in a series of square mesh sheets that can be secured together. This simple concept allows for temperature regulation, ventilation, and adaptability to different types of shelters and distribution methods.
Aluminet material being tested on a tent in camp Moria. Water bottles were added to increase ventilation between tarp and Auminet.
Our solution: ready for another round of testing.
Passing the Torch to the World
With so much excitement about Torch from the refugees and NGOs, we knew we had to move forward. We supplied our solution to 6 refugee families in Moria for long-term testing, and months later, they have reported that Torch has made them feel significantly more comfortable inside their shelter. They do not want to part with the product and have expressed so much gratitude. Those were the first 6 families, but there are thousands more who need our help.
In addition to user testing in refugee camps, we have spent ~ 80 hours testing our designs ourselves, sleeping in tents overnight and testing across the US and in Greece in all kinds of weather conditions. The testing shows that Torch increases interior temperatures by 5-10 °C on average during cold weather, cools the shelter during hot sunny days, and reduces humidity by 5-10% on average. The refugee families we tested with reported that our product helped them feel warmer at night, cooler during the day, and prevented condensation from forming on their tents.
Map of the refugees camps on the Aegean islands, where we will begin distributing Torch worldwide. (Image Source: hrw.org 2018)