Dirty Girls is proud to be pioneering the use of the simple environmental practice of washing used materials in humanitarian relief efforts: with the vision that it will become the status quo for the larger international humanitarian agencies. Whenever possible, Dirty Girls washes (to hospital standards) blankets, sleeping bags and other materials so that they can be reused, rather than the present practices of International Non Government Organisations (INGOs) – the cavalier trashing of all materials and replacement with new ones.
This leads to environmental degradation while the financial cost to donors and taxpayers is twice as much as necessary.
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 the 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.
From mid March, 2016, with changes which meant that 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.
People in camps hand wash their clothing. Not the best solution, but at least people maintain their own clothing.
Dirty Girls expansion means that three huge commercial laundries in Lesvos, Athens and Northern Greece are used for washing the blankets and sleeping bags.
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.