Production of humanitarian aid in the Skills Factory

We produce humanitarian aid ourselves to support asylum-seekers in Samos with what they truly need. by hand. locally. sustainably. independently.
Good Practices

Production of humanitarian aid in the Skills Factory

We produce humanitarian aid ourselves to support asylum-seekers in Samos with what they truly need. by hand. locally. sustainably. independently.

"In the SKILLS FACTORY, it’s like I found again the family I had lost. For the future, I would like to work with wood, have a diploma in this field and continue on this path."

- Babiry, Community Volunteer

The project in brief

The project is/was implemented by Selfm.aid and partners in Greece. It began in February 2021 and is currently ongoing.

In more than 10 different crafts workshops, people trapped in the camp in Samos repair or produce everything they need themselves, develop their skills, and build their capacities. By combining their existing skills and experience with the local resources on the fertile island of Samos, this innovative approach not only mitigates the dire conditions within the camp but also fosters a profound sense of empowerment, self-determination, opportunities, dignity, and community among its participants.

The Skills Factory on the Greek island of Samos provides a large, safe space for the people on the move to practice, develop and to share their professional expertise in crafts to produce the necessary relief goods themselves from local resources. Thus reduces humanitarian suffering and break the vicious circle of passiveness and dependency.

Main activities of the Good Practice

The craft trades of the camp community form the basis for the establishment of individual workshops in the Skills Factory. The management of these areas is the responsibility of the participants.

Some examples of professional fields, in which refugees have experience, but are also traditionally anchored on the island, are: woodwork/carpentry, metal work, textile, building and construction, repairs of electronic devices, recycling, cooking and baking, agriculture and horticulture, textile printing filming and editing.

The individual workshops jointly define which products are manufactured to provide the community with the best possible support. The main criteria are people's needs, the urgency of the products, and implementable with local or recycled materials.

Thanks to the in-house production and supply to partner organizations, imports of aid goods manufactured abroad and packaged in plastic are reduced. Defective products are repaired instead of replaced and waste is recycled. The products are then distributed where they are most needed.

The core groups create a vocational training plan together for young talents, which can then be attended by anyone interested in an occupation. The participants receive a certificate and job reference upon leaving.

Partners involved

A man in a workshop using a machine - there are tools, tins and a computer around him

What challenges were encountered in delivering the project and how were they overcome?


The new refugee camp (CCAC) is located far away from the small town of Vathy.

Public institutions have failed in their duty to support and protect asylum seekers and any of the formerly active NGOs left the island, thus letting the responsibility fall to a few grassroots organizations, leaving the Skills Factory as one of the few places of support for those in need.

As the European refugee crisis has fallen out of the media spotlight, funding sources have withered, leaving our survival as an organization in the hands of private donors.

Following the tragic shipwreck in Pylos in June of 2023, the Greek government temporarily replaced violent pushbacks with sea rescue missions. This led to an overwhelming increase in new arrivals, pushing the Samos camp beyond its limits - exceeding it’s capacity by more than 300%. With the sudden surge in new arrivals, the infrastructure at the CCAC collapsed within a short period of time.

"In the beginning I was too depressed to come to the SKILLS FACTORY. But then they needed a tailor, and I took over the sewing department. Today, I help other people who arrive depressed. I tell them to join us, I share my knowledge and we can relax all together while working, sewing and cooking."

- Pascaline, Community Volunteer

How they were overcome

We convinced the local bus company to introduce a new bus stop in front of the Skills Factory to ensure transportation from the camp.

We organized an in-person and crowdfunding event.

In response to the recent crisis in the camp, we swiftly redirected our focus to essential services like showers, phone repairs, laundry, and crafting vital items such as soaps (1600 soaps to MSF for hygiene kits), energy bars and baby blankets, collaborating closely with our partner organizations on the island.

Results of the Good Practice

Skills Development: Workshops activities cultivate diverse hard (technical) and soft skills.

Enhanced Employment Opportunities and Integration Support: Preparing portfolios aid asylum-seekers in presenting their skills for employment in Europe.

Mental Well-being: Self-designed community areas become a therapeutic space, positively impacting mental health.

Nutritional Improvement and Clothing Accessibility: The kitchen department provides nourishing meals, while tailoring provides clothing solutions, reducing dependence on donations.

Community Building: Shared work fosters pride, optimism, self-determination, and a sense of belonging.

Mobility and Connectivity: The bike workshop facilitates mobility and the phone repair workshop distributes phones that allow to connect and processes the asylum-seeking process.

In what way does the good practice meet one or more of the four objectives of the Global Compact on Refugees?

Objective 1: Ease the pressures on host countries

The local Greek community is suffering from the increasing economic crisis (e.g. emigration of the younger generation, competition from cheap imports, many fields cannot be cultivated anymore). The Skills Factory however uses local resources (e.g. imported wooden pallets, unharvested fruits) as much as possible and raw materials are bought from local suppliers whenever possible. The Skills Factory also offers support and placement for integration into the local labor market (e.g. hospitality) whenever possible.

Objective 2: Enhance refugee self-reliance

Based on identified needs and skills of refugees, the refugees manage, coordinate and implement the activities in the crafts workshops by themselves. This allows them to produce the necessary relief goods themselves from local resources, positively influence their current living situation and thus break the vicious circle of dependency on aid organizations (queuing, waiting, receiving).

Next steps

Since the situation in the camp on Samos has worsened over the last months, the project is expected to be continued.

Are there areas in which support would be required to continue and/or scale up your good practice?

As we rely entirely on individual donations, any financial support is immensely valuable for sustaining and expanding our project's initiatives (e.g. for raw materials, to maintain our infrastructure, to ensure transportation from the refugee camp to Skills Factory). Furthermore, both financial and technical assistance from private sector actors, such as crafts companies and tool companies, would enhance the workshops' professionalism and contribute significantly to the overall impact of the project.