In October, 2015 we found ourselves on the Greek island of Crete, searching for our future wedding venue. At the time, the refugee crisis was something we were only vaguely aware.
However, as reports intensified about hundreds of thousands of people risking, and sometimes losing, their lives to cross from Turkey into another Greek island, we educated ourselves. About the war in Syria. About the millions fleeing. About how we could help.
We spent the following month of November in Lesvos. We had no idea how we were going to help, but we had the will to try. We played many roles that month. Taxi drivers. Chefs. Donation sorters. Night-shift security guards. Baby sitters. And, of course, aid supplier.
We bought food to hand to people as they arrived on the shores. We brought playdough for the children to play with at the camps. The cold was the killer though, so we primarily purchased jackets and tents. Hundreds of them.
We knew this level of personal spending was unsustainable, but so many people still needed urgent help. We needed to raise awareness about the crisis and raise funds to purchase critical aid. Zoë looked at the thousands of life vests strewn across the beaches of Lesvos' north coast and thought back to an upcycling class she took in college, and the vision for Zoë Bands was born.
The life vests had started to become the symbol for the crisis as a whole. By using the vests as the source material, we could help clean up the beaches and bring a tangible connection to a crisis that felt a world away to our American friends and families. We could employ Greek seamstresses to make the bands and buy the aid from local shops to help create economic alignment between the refugees and their hosts. Most importantly, we could provide more aid than we could have ever purchased ourselves. By March, 2016 we launched via IndieGogo.
The name Zoë Bands was created by our Greek partners. "Zoë" means "Life" in Greek, and we are recycling life vests to improve lives. Our Zoë is actually embarrassed when people think the company is named after her. She pushed back on the name for that very reason, but the rest of our team insisted it was a perfect fit. We later launched our 501c3, When We Band Together, to increase our capacity to give.
We are deeply grateful for any and everyone that considers purchasing our bracelets and, thereby, supporting people seeking refuge. There is so much going on in the world, and it's easy for it to be overwhelmed to the point of paralysis. We believe this is the issue of our time and a test of our species capacity to love and support one another. Thank you for standing with us and, more importantly, thank you for standing with them.