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 and refugee host governments. Dirty Girls washes (to hospital standards), blankets, sleeping bags and other materials so that they can be reused, rather than the present practices of most International Non Government Organisations (INGOs) – the cavalier trashing of all materials and replacement with new ones.
Each blanket could be washed to hospital standards in commercial laundries at least 20 times before deterioration if NGOs and government bodies would redirect their focus to an environmental imperative.
(Obviously) trashing materials leads to environmental degradation while the financial cost to donors and taxpayers is at least twice as much as necessary.
Dirty Girls was initiated in 2015, so that good quality wet and dirty clothing, discarded by thousands of people fleeing war and terror, arriving by sea on the island of Lesvos, would not be trashed. 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, clothes could be provided to the arriving people 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 generously distributed but quickly trashed after use, as well as backpacks, baby carriers and other materials.
From mid March, 2016, with changes that meant refugees movements to destinations outside Greece were curtailed by closed borders and other regulations, Dirty Girls main focus turned mostly to washing blankets and sleeping bags for the 60,000 people in official and unofficial camps in Greece. Often people live 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 as long as weather and availability of water permits.
Dirty Girls expansion means that three huge commercial laundries in Lesvos, Athens and Northern Greece are used for washing.
Dirty Girls operations are funded by donors from all over the world: people with a common compassion for other people who have become refugees, and a necessary concern for our shared environment.