A network of activists, techies and humanitarians has set up a base in Jordan to train refugees in open source tech, 3D printing and more with the aim of using these skills to address issues arising from the conflict in Syria.
The conflict in Syria has led to more than 4.8 million people fleeing the country. Neighbouring Jordan hosts over 630,000 refugees from Syria, who are scattered throughout the north of the country as well as in refugee camps and face numerous challenges, particularly those who have been injured in the conflict.
In response to the crisis, Refugee Open Ware (ROW) - an international consortium of NGOs, corporations, academic institutions, activists and more - wishes to use hacking, 3D printing, makerspaces, open source technology and a number of other cutting tech approaches to address some of the issues that those affected by the conflict in Syria experience.
The idea for ROW was born out of a desire to 3D print prosthetic limbs for Syrians and refugees. David Levin and Loay Malahmeh, co-founders of company 3D MENA (part of the ROW consortium), worked with Asem Hasna, a refugee from Syria who lost his left leg in an explosion in 2013. Hasna learnt about creating bionic prosthetics and 3D printed part of a foot together with Levin and Malahmeh. This led to the idea of training those affected by a humanitarian crisis to use certain technologies to create tangible solutions they require.
A high number of injuries caused by the conflict require amputation (PDF) and the consortium is looking to provide assistance to those affected by producing 3D printed prosthetics faster and cheaper than via conventional methods. Though still in its early stages, ROW is also venturing into other initiatives like using 3D printing and a computer vision app to aid in the safe diffusion of unexploded ordnances and prototyping an echolocation device that allows visually-impaired people to navigate using vibrations when walking.
At the top of ROW’s agenda is setting up a fabrication lab (FabLab) in Amman, Jordan, equipped with all the necessary equipment (think soldering irons, 3D printers and the like) to allow people to meet, brainstorm ideas and bring them to fruition. The team is looking to develop the innovation centre into a hub for creative thinking and problem solving and wants to provide the tools, know-how and support to refugees and others in the area so they can develop strategies to address issues themselves. The team is also looking to kit out a second FabLab in Irbid, near the Za’atari Refugee Camp which houses over 80,000 refugees.
ROW is also looking to build a research and development centre in Istanbul as well as a prostheses centre in a Jordanian medical facility. On a broader scale, ROW wants to put its model and worldwide network to use to address humanitarian issues in other regions, too. To learn more about ROW or to financially support their work, head to their website.