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Students and private sector working together for humanitarian action

Published on Thursday 22 June 2017

Milan Kieffer (24) and his team, award winners of the Schoolab Innovative Product Creation (CPI) and the Vinci Innovation prize (read Schoolab article), joined SOLIDARITÉS INTERNATIONAL in Lebanon to set up a thermal insulation project for the shelters of Syrian refugees.

Lebanon has welcomed more than 1.5 million Syrian refugees, 15% of which are living in more than 4,000 informal camps. Milan and his classmates, from famous French schools (Strate, Centrale, ESSEC), wanted to help those refugees with the support of VINCI. “We chose SOLIDARITÉS INTERNATIONAL and VINCI’s proposal among a lot of other offers. From the creation of a new packaging for a pharmaceutical company, to customer experience for a construction giant, the offers were diverse. The human side of SOLIDARITÉS INTERNATIONAL’s offer attracted me: How to develop a response to the refugees’ thermal comfort in Lebanon?”

Milan Kieffer Etudiant Prix Schoolab
Milan Kieffer (on the right) during the project presentation in SOLIDARITÉS INTERNATIONAL’s head office.

Thermal insulation solution

Geography, urbanism, weather… For 6 months, Milan and his team worked on an insulation solution for shelters. They took into account the camps’ narrowness, temperature variations depending on the season, sustainability, material costs, etc. “To allow a better thermal insulation, we try to benefit from bioclimatology by building greenhouses on the shelters. This system keeps human heat inside during winter, while cultivating plants.”
Refugees have a lot of imagination when it comes to growing plants in informal camps.

Adapting to the field

After two weeks of observation on the ground, Milan had to make adjustments. “I talked a lot with the refugees I met to understand their constraints and expectations. Quickly we had to face the reality: lack of space between tents, shelter exposure, variable strength of the facilities, insulating without obstructing useful spaces (crossing points, windows, ventilations in place, etc.), to choose adequate materials (not too expensive, resisting to bad weather and that you can find locally…)”

People work with what is available.
Milan Kieffer, Winner of the Creation of Innovative Product Schoolab

“Since I arrived I have been surprised with some initiatives. People work with whatever they can get their hands on. In one of the camps people use cut plastic pipes to cultivate. Using local materials is essential, so I decided to follow their example and to use their idea for our plantations.”
Thanks to VINCI’s support, Milan is in Lebanon for four months to test the prototype and its resistance and to adapt the solution to make it appropriate as possible.
Before the end of August, he hopes to have a final version that would be reproducible and would be installed in informal camps all over the country. “We need to act quickly, winter is coming!”

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Photo: © Vianney Le Caer/ SOLIDARITÉS INTERNATIONAL

  • 5.5 million inhabitants
  • 28,6% poverty rate
  • 72nd out of 188 on the Human Development Index
  • 75,000 people helped