Sunday, October 22, 2017

MIT students produce comfort for Syrian refugees

During a freshman pre-orientation exercise last year at the Massachusetts Institute Sloan School of Management, a group of students were discussing start-up ideas.Vick Liu scribbled his idea on a napkin. He called it TravelPack -- a tight, durable, water-resistant sleeping bag that can withstand the icy cold Syrian winters. With fuel and shelter hard to find, many Syrians have can't keep warm in winter. He decided to create something that would help them. "It's a simple solution to a big problem," he said.

Liu and his team spoke directly to refugees to understand their needs. They said they had no way to securely store valuables, so each TravelPack contains one outside storage compartment and five inside compartments. To test it, Liu slept on the roof of his fraternity house overnight one snowy night when temperatures in Boston fell to 15 degrees, and he kept warm. They launched a GoFundMe page and raised $15,000 to send TravelPacks to Syrian refugees.After reaching out to about 80 potential manufacturers, they partnered with one in April to make the bags. Nu Day Syria signed on to distribute the packs within resettlement areas in northwest Syria. "We've been really lucky the whole way through," says Liu.

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