Finding Elpis in Lesvos, Greece by Ariel Barbieri-Aghib and Owen Martin

by tuftsigl
Jun 23

One day last week, Ariel and I sat at our usual spot in front of an Internet cafe on the corner of our street and the main road, writing emails and tweets to potential interviewees and reading the latest on the human crisis from major news sources. As we were about to wrap up, four people wearing matching blue t-shirts walked behind us, jabbering away in a Scottish accent. Ariel quickly diagnosed the situation: an island with lots of volunteers, matching t-shirts with a foreign accent -- these people were definitely working at the camps. We turned in our chairs to ask about what the word on the front of their shirt meant. The word was Elpis, and it fittingly means "hope", because the Elpis group is one of the most promising volunteer groups in the tech field we've seen across the globe.

Elpis is a perfect example of the work we're trying to do. They're a scarcely known team of a few college kids, funded by the chaplaincy of the University of Edinburgh, that has built a solar-powered mobile phone charging station. This is the kind of sustainable tech that isn't talked about at hackathons across Europe or the states - it's the kind that comes from listening closely to the needs of refugees and innovating within the realm of real, actionable change. Ariel and I were ecstatic to meet them, and after a long interview we quite literally jumped for joy. Just bringing attention and spotlighting Elpis made us feel as though we were unearthing something truly magical... and on top of that, the past week has been full of positive responses to our Twitter outreach, pages and pages of quotable material from interviews with site planners, startup CEOs, and ex-volunteers! Lesvos was kind to us both as a source of tons of information and a hospitable Greek island to call home. After seeing the innovative potential of Elpis and others, we are confident that this new technology will assist in the gradual process of Lesvos becoming a better home for the stateless traveling visitors as well.