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Dirty Girls of Lesvos

Dirty Girls was initiated in October, 2015, so that good quality wet and dirty clothing, discarded by thousands of refugees arriving by sea on the island of Lesvos, would no longer be trashed. Instead, Dirty Girls, paying for the services of a sympathetic commercial laundry, collected and washed tons and tons of clothing and then sent them to clothing distribution centres for other incoming people. Because the washed clothes were coming from people with similar backgrounds, Dirty Girls could provide clothes to the arriving refugees with more appropriate styles, sizes and modesty levels than what was available with donated clothes. Depending on the type, shoes were washed in machines or by hand. Quality woollen jackets were gently washed and hand pressed before being sent on coat hangers to the clothing distribution centres. With huge capacity machines, operating 24/7, washing to hospital standards, it was also possible to launder sleeping bags and the big grey UNHCF blankets, which were given to refugees, as well as backpacks, baby carriers and other materials.

Beginning in mid March, 2016, refugees’ movements to destinations outside Greece were curtailed by closed borders and other regulations. Dirty Girls’ main focus turned to washing blankets and sleeping bags for the 60,000 people in official and unofficial camps in Greece. Often people are in poor conditions with no bed, mattress or sheets, so washing the blankets and sleeping bags is necessary for comfort, health and dignity. Dirty Girls is also working, in collaboration with Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), to take truckloads of thousands of washed blankets to refugees in Serbia.

Another project of Dirty Girls is to take the materials from discarded life jackets and upcycle them into messenger bags. Each bag has a different, one off design, representing the fact that each refugee is a person with an individual life story. Each bag has material selected from at least six or seven jackets and padded with pieces from the insides of jackets.  Upcycling the material means that it will not end up in landfill to eventually produce greenhouse gases which leads to global warming.

After Dirty Girls have collected, washed and cut the life jackets, local people earn a very fair price for making the bags.  Donations from bags are used for washing blankets for the comfort, warmth and health of people who are now forced to live in camps in Greece because the borders to the rest of Europe have been closed.  You can order bags at

Dirty Girls operations are funded by donors from all over the world: people with a common compassion for others who have become refugees, and a concern for our shared environment. You can make a tax deductible donation at

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