Edinburgh student designs mat for refugees

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An Edinburgh Napier student has designed a safe sleeping mat for refugees after being inspired by her time volunteering in Greece.

Fourth year product design student Kate Henderson, 21, took three flights to reach the Greek island of Chios where she spent two weeks working at a refugee camp for women.

Edinburgh Napier student Kate Henderson has produced thermal mat, Embrace,a safe and warm sleeping mat that could potentially be used by those staying within refugee camps.

Edinburgh Napier student Kate Henderson has produced thermal mat, Embrace,a safe and warm sleeping mat that could potentially be used by those staying within refugee camps.

Run by charity Action for Switzerland the camp provides a safe space for the thousands of refugees fleeing life-threatening dangers in their home countries.

Kate spent time volunteering at the centre which offers comfort, a hot shower and support to women who have arrived in Chios from conflicts in Syria and Afghanistan.

After witnessing first-hand the living conditions in the camp, Kate has designed and produced Embrace – a warm sleeping mat that could potentially be used by those staying within refugee camps.

“The camp in Chios was set up to help those who were 
fleeing the troubles in their homeland,” Kate explained. “In my short time there I met doctors from Syria and even lecturers from Afghanistan who had uprooted their families in the hope that a better life awaited them elsewhere.”

The stark conditions and lack of basic amenities available to refugees landing in the town spurred Kate to come up with an idea which could help give some comfort to desperate families.

The thermal mat’s design includes designated pockets that people can store clothes within, with two panels allowing it to be folded over so that clothes pockets can be used as extra padding for warmth.

The portable bed is made from a lightweight polyester/cotton blend and is easily transportable and waterproof.

Kate said: “There were more than 3,000 refugees on the island when I was there and despite the fantastic work of volunteer organisations which were located there, I still saw individuals living with just a blanket on the ground – it really wasn’t acceptable.

“Out of desperation, I also saw items getting stolen – shoes and T-shirts would regularly go missing.

“With this in mind, I’ve used my time at Chios to shape my final year project.

“Embrace is a safe and warm space for individuals to sleep on and store their clothes in. It’s a simple design but I think it could potentially make a massive impact on the wellbeing of individuals who are staying within camps. Some people flee their home country with little or no possessions and it is important that there is support available for them – a place to sleep and keep warm is essential.”

Kate, originally from the Black Isle near Inverness, added: “I would love to continue my idea for Embrace after university, even if it means passing it on to a charity to develop further. I hope that one day soon the mats will be being used to provide comfort and support to those who need it the most.”

The Embrace mat is one of hundreds of items currently on show at Edinburgh Napier’s More Than A Degree Show at its Merchiston campus.