The remarkable way 3D printers are saving lives in refugee camps

Refugee camps are usually seen as scenes of crisis. But a team of innovators wants to change that.

Ahmad's world went dark at age 22 when he was shot across the eyes during the Syrian civil war.

But two years later, a Syrian refugee named Asem came across a startup called Refugee Open Ware, where he learned to build Ahmad a customized echolocation device that fit over his hand.

The device uses vibrations to indicate how close objects are in his environment, and it's helping Ahmad walk on his own again.


"For two years, I haven't felt this feeling — where I walk and know what's in front of me," Ahmad said.

Ahmad's new echolocation device was built by a fellow refugee, all because of a startup called Refugee Open Ware. Photo from Refugee Open Ware.

The founders of Refugee Open Ware look at refugee camps and see more than devastation — they see possibility.

Asem, the man who built Ahmad's new device, is among the first of many refugees who are learning to 3D-print and code at Refugee Open Ware, a series of fabrication labs, or "fab labs," located in crisis areas. The company was founded by Dave Levin and Loay Malahmeh.

“We want to take the most advanced technology and put it in the hands of those who need it the most," Levin said.

Refugee Open Ware gives refugees access to digital manufacturing technologies.

The idea is to stock each Refugee Open Ware fab lab with laser cutters, vinyl cutters, milling machines, 3D printers, and scanners.

They'll also be packed with the kinds of things you'd find in any good woodworking or metal shop, like welding equipment, table saws, band saws, lathes, and handcrafting tools.

With 3D printers similar to these ones, trained individuals might print 3D prosthetics and supplies for their fellow refugees. Photo by Ultimaker.

While seemingly simple, this equipment opens up new possibilities for many displaced people, encouraging everything from creative play and learning for kids to simple repairs and skills training for adults.

The first Refugee Open Ware pilot program is now up and running in Amman, Jordan.

There have been more success stories like Ahmad's, too.

One comes from Asem himself, formerly a health care worker who lost a leg during a bombing before he ended up at Refugee Open Ware's facility in Amman. While in Amman, he made his own prosthetic leg with a 3D printer.

Another success story comes from a 6-year-old Yemeni boy.

After losing his hand in a house fire, the boy received a customized, 3D-printed hand from Refugee Open Ware team members, designed to emulate his favorite cartoon superhero, Ben 10. The hand, built with local tools and supplies, costs only $75.

The 6-year-old Yemeni boy sits next to Asem, a Syrian refugee who lost his leg as a paramedic in the war at age 19 and later became a prosthetic technician in Jordan. This photo was taken by Manar Bilal, the man who saved Asem's life. The two are now best friends. Photo by Manar Bilal, courtesy of Refugee Open Ware.

Up next for the program: setting up shop in Turkey and Kurdistan.

Right now, Levin and Malahmeh are also awaiting the necessary permit to build their first maker space at the Za'atari refugee camp on the Jordan-Syria border, staffed entirely by refugees.

It shouldn't be long, since they've already gotten the thumbs-up from King Abdullah II and Queen Rania.

The Za'atari refugee camp in northern Jordan is home to more than 81,000 Syrians. Photo by U.S. Government Works/Flickr.

There's no shortage of crises to attend to. But by providing new technology and tools, Refugee Open Ware might make refugee camps a space where those at the epicenter of a crisis can send out shock waves of good.

More
True
Gates Foundation
Youtube

Should a man lose his home because the grass in his yard grew higher than 10 inches? The city of Dunedin, Florida seems to think so.

According to the Institute of Justice, which is representing Jim Ficken, he had a very good reason for not mowing his lawn – and tried to rectify the situation as best he could.

In 2014, Jim's mom became ill and he visited her often in South Carolina to help her out. When he was away, his grass grew too long and he was cited by a code office; he cut the grass and wasn't fined.

France has started forcing supermarkets to donate food instead of throwing it away.

But several years later, this one infraction would come back to haunt him after he left to take care of him's mom's affairs after she died. The arrangements he made to have his grass cut fell through (his friend who he asked to help him out passed away unexpectedly) and that set off a chain reaction that may result in him losing his home.

The 69-year-old retiree now faces a $29,833.50 fine plus interest. Watch the video to find out just what Jim is having to deal with.

Mow Your Lawn or Lose Your House! www.youtube.com

Cities

The world officially loves Michelle Obama.

The former first lady has overtaken the number one spot in a poll of the world's most admired women. Conducted by online research firm YouGov, the study uses international polling tools to survey people in countries around the world about who they most admire.

In the men's category, Bill Gates took the top spot, followed by Barack Obama and Jackie Chan.

In the women's category, Michelle Obama came first, followed by Oprah Winfrey and Angelina Jolie. Obama pushed Jolie out of the number one spot she claimed last year.

Unsurprising, really, because what's not to love about Michelle Obama? She is smart, kind, funny, accomplished, a great dancer, a devoted wife and mother, and an all-around, genuinely good person.

She has remained dignified and strong in the face of rabid masses of so-called Americans who spent eight years and beyond insisting that she's a man disguised as a woman. She's endured non-stop racist memes and terrifying threats to her family. She has received far more than her fair share of cruelty, and always takes the high road. She's the one who coined, "When they go low, we go high," after all.

She came from humble beginnings and remains down to earth despite becoming a familiar face around the world. She's not much older than me, but I still want to be like Michelle Obama when I grow up.

Her memoir, Becoming, may end up being the best-selling memoir of all time, having already sold 10 million copies—a clear sign that people can't get enough Michelle, because there's no such thing as too much Michelle.

Don't like Michelle Obama? Don't care. Those of us who love her will fly our MO flags high and without apology, paying no mind to folks with cold, dead hearts who don't know a gem of a human being when they see one. There is nothing any hater can say or do to make us admire this undeniably admirable woman any less.

When it seems like the world has lost its mind—which is how it feels most days these days—I'm just going to keep coming back to this study as evidence that hope for humanity is not lost.

Here. Enjoy some real-life Michelle on Jimmy Kimmel. (GAH. WHY IS SHE SO CUTE AND AWESOME. I can't even handle it.)

Michelle & Barack Obama are Boring Now www.youtube.com

Most Shared
via EarthFix / Flickr

What will future generations never believe that we tolerated in 2019?

Dolphin and orca captivity, for sure. They'll probably shake their heads at how people died because they couldn't afford healthcare. And, they'll be completely mystified at the amount of food some people waste while others go starving.

According to Biological Diversity, "An estimated 40 percent of the food produced in the United States is wasted every year, costing households, businesses and farms about $218 billion annually."

There are so many things wrong with this.

First of all it's a waste of money for the households who throw out good food. Second, it's a waste of all of the resources that went into growing the food, including the animals who gave their lives for the meal. Third, there's something very wrong with throwing out food when one in eight Americans struggle with hunger.

Supermarkets are just as guilty of this unnecessary waste as consumers. About 10% of all food waste are supermarket products thrown out before they've reached their expiration date.

Three years ago, France took big steps to combat food waste by making a law that bans grocery stores from throwing away edible food.According to the new ordinance, stores can be fined for up to $4,500 for each infraction.

Previously, the French threw out 7.1 million tons of food. Sixty-seven percent of which was tossed by consumers, 15% by restaurants, and 11% by grocery stores.

This has created a network of over 5,000 charities that accept the food from supermarkets and donate them to charity. The law also struck down agreements between supermarkets and manufacturers that prohibited the stores from donating food to charities.

"There was one food manufacturer that was not authorized to donate the sandwiches it made for a particular supermarket brand. But now, we get 30,000 sandwiches a month from them — sandwiches that used to be thrown away," Jacques Bailet, head of the French network of food banks known as Banques Alimentaires, told NPR.

It's expected that similar laws may spread through Europe, but people are a lot less confident at it happening in the United States. The USDA believes that the biggest barrier to such a program would be cost to the charities and or supermarkets.

"The logistics of getting safe, wholesome, edible food from anywhere to people that can use it is really difficult," the organization said according to Gizmodo. "If you're having to set up a really expensive system to recover marginal amounts of food, that's not good for anybody."

Plus, the idea may seem a little too "socialist" for the average American's appetite.

"The French version is quite socialist, but I would say in a great way because you're providing a way where they [supermarkets] have to do the beneficial things not only for the environment, but from an ethical standpoint of getting healthy food to those who need it and minimizing some of the harmful greenhouse gas emissions that come when food ends up in a landfill," Jonathan Bloom, the author of American Wasteland, told NPR.

However, just because something may be socialist doesn't mean it's wrong. The greater wrong is the insane waste of money, damage to the environment, and devastation caused by hunger that can easily be avoided.

Planet

The world is dark and full of terrors, but every once in a while it graces us with something to warm our icy-cold hearts. And that is what we have today, with a single dad who went viral on Twitter after his daughter posted the photos he sent her when trying to pick out and outfit for his date. You love to see it.




After seeing these heartwarming pics, people on Twitter started suggesting this adorable man date their moms. It was essentially a mom and date matchmaking frenzy.

Keep Reading Show less
Family