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From boat to bag and from refugee to employee #bag2work

2 min read

Good Stuff
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From teaching refugees how to make bags out of waste, to helping them earn their own money and get their independence back in a new country.

Last spring, No Mad Makers Didi, Floor and Niels went to Lesvos where they gave workshops to Syrian refugees on how to make bags out of waste such as lifeboats. Now, they’re looking to sell the bags to provide an income for refugees in the Netherlands.

How the NoMadMakers are helping refugees, one bag at a timeSource: Facebook BrightVibes

No MadMakers

Didi, Floor and Niels wanted to help the refugees who arrived at the Greek island of Lesvos. Didi goes to school for entrepreneurship, making bags and shoes, and figured this was something she could help them with.

Instead of giving them money, or giving them other stuff, they wanted to give them their independence back in a way that they could, by teaching them how to make stuff for themselves. So they went to Lesvos and shared their knowledge with the refugees on Lesvos. They called themselves the No Mad Makers.

The name has several meanings; By being able to make things for themselves and being a bit more independent, the refugees, or nomads, won’t go ‘mad’, because as they say on their website  “If our hands were tied, we’d go mad!”


The boats and life jackets the refugees brought with them became the material they made bags out of. With simple, basic tools, the bags can be constructed out of the waste material. This way they help both the refugees as well as the environment! And there’s plenty of material to go around…


They documented the work they did on Lesvos, and it became a huge hit on the internet.

Al Jazeera posted a movie about the project, which was then seen by millions.

More and more people wanted to buy the bags, and they couldn’t meet the demand. Their focus was on the workshops, not a web shop for the bags.

They then were nominated for several Dutch design prizes such as  the New Material Award and they got to present their design at the Dutch Design Week.

Then came the offer from the Dutch Design Foundation for a crowdfund campaign which would be promoted by their media contacts and be guided by the Douw&Koren agency.They met with Makers Unite, who are setting up a production facility to create jobs for refugees in Amsterdam which led to the idea to set up a crowdfunding campaign to finance the production of 500 bags, made by refugees in the Netherlands who get paid for their work.

And thus, Bag2Work was born.


Their tagline is simple:

“BAG2WORK: From boat to bag & from refugee to employee

A bag that packs your stuff with a story. Made by refugees who get paid for their work. From boats that are left on Greek beaches.Back us, get a bag.”

By November 10th, they need to have reached their goal of 50,000 euros in order to get the project started. This is their kickstarter.

The Bag2Work bags
The Bag2Work bags Source: Kickstarter
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Make an Impact

Bag2Work Kickstarter

This is the link to their kickstarter campaign where you can back their project and secure a bag for yourself!