Millions of refugees from poverty-stricken and war-torn parts of the Middle East are fleeing to Europe. When they arrive, they need basic necessities like food, water, and shelter. And, just like the rest of us, they also need to use their cell phones.
Seeking a fresh start
Edinburg University student Alexandros Angelopoulos, age 20, was visiting the island of Samos in Greece, where hundreds of refugees arrive daily in rubber boats, hoping to escape oppression and violence in their home countries and start a new life in Europe. People immediately began asking Angelopoulos if they could borrow his phone to contact friends and family and to access the internet.
Upon arriving in a foreign land, refugees need to contact friends and family back home or in their destination city, or need to use internet services to plan the next part of their journey.
However, in refugee camps with limited resources, people are generally unable to access electricity to charge their phones. Crowds compete over the small number of public electrical outlets available.
Giving people hope
Angelopoulos teamed up with fellow student Samuel Kellerhals and Greek solar energy company Entec to build solar-powered cell phone charging stations.
The stations include 12 solar-powered plugs and can charge phones for 240 people per day.
The team has installed two units at a refugee camp in Samos, and has crowdfunded to finance the installation of three more. Their goal is to install solar-powered charging stations in all of the refugee camps in Greece.
Project Elpis, which means “hope” in Greek was well received by residents and authorities at the camp. Stavros Miroyannis, the camp manager, described the charging stations as “a gift from God” and said that he was awaiting the additional three solar-powered units “with great pleasure.”
According to Kellerhals, “we just wanted to make a positive contribution to local communities through renewable energy.”