Constract.Lab: An innovation space to reach vulnerable youth

Tdh has put in place innovative open spaces for vulnerable youth in Greece, Burkina Faso, Ukraine, and Gaza, in which they can create their own projects with the help of technological tools. These humanitarian FabLabs aim for young people’s social protection and empowerment but also for their future employability.

sewing activities Constract.Lab
Yazan, at the Constract.Lab
Constract.Lab team

"Tdh staff introduced me to the FabLab, in which I am now creating a car model. This 3D printer will print it in 39 hours. I will need to start my studies, I want to study mechanical engineering and design. My dream is to be a car designer." Yazan, 18 yrs, from Syria. 

What’s a FabLab? 

Coming from the contraction of Fabrication Laboratory, a FabLab is a physical space where people can access a variety of numerical production tools. The concept was created by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 2001 and is part of the global “Do it Yourself” movement with the philosophy of making instead of buying. In collaboration with the Global Humanitarian Lab (GHL), Terre des hommes (Tdh) implemented its first humanitarian FabLab for the refugee population in Greece in 2017. This pilot project was duplicated for children working in gold mines in Burkina Faso and for children affected by the conflict in Ukraine, as well as in other contexts.

Our objectives

The purpose of the FabLab is two-fold. On the one hand, it is designed to be a room full of advanced digital manufacturing technologies allowing the creation of projects. On the other hand, it represents an innovative non-formal education tool providing young people with practical digital skills while contributing to improving their resilience. The FabLab offers a collaborative open space for both refugees and the local community and provides users with the required initial knowledge and assistance for the creation of personal and participative projects. Workshops are offered regularly, allowing youth to enhance their creativity and implement their own projects and designs. This promotes their protection, education, employability, and entrepreneurship skills. Each humanitarian FabLab is adapted to the situation youth find themselves in such as in:

Constract.Lab in Greece

The closure of the Balkans route in 2016, followed by the Turkey-EU deal, led to more than 60,000 refugees being stranded in Greece in 2017 for an indeterminate length of time and with few future perspectives. Young people lacked the opportunity to put their energy and enthusiasm to use. There was an urgent educational need for displaced children who have lost their access to school. To tackle this situation, Terre des hommes created the innovative FabLab project as a pilot in its community center “Mikri Poli” in Ioannina. Refugee youth got the possibility to improve their skills while interacting with the host community.

Funded by Direct Relief, in 2020 Tdh Hellas set up again a Constract.Lab project in two open accommodation facilities near Athens as part of the child protection services provided by Tdh Hellas - with an emphasis on mental health and psychosocial care.   This Constract.Lab project had a two-fold role: First, to conduct Covid 19 health promotion activities among the residents of the two camps, engaging them in fun experiments using sprays, masks, mobile phones, cardboard, dishwashing liquid, and other materials; and second, to invite the participants to design and create hygiene items themselves, related to protection from Covid19 -masks, visors, etc. They did this either by using traditional tools like sewing machines or innovative instruments such as the various components of Tdh’ fabrication lab, including a 3D printer. All items were distributed among refugees and staff working in these facilities. Participants had the chance to explore and use their skills for the fabrication of other everyday items nonrelated to Covid19. 

Μore information on FabLab: