Day 5: Softex

After a fantastic, efficient installation at Thermopyles, Elpis co-founders Sam and Alex piled into a small car with Alex's father Vassilis to drive an additional 3 hours north to Thessaloniki to visit the Softex camp. With only two seats in the front, the guys took turns sitting in the back haul of the van, nestled alongside the tools, sand, cement, and other equipment.

Upon arrival, exhausted after the early start, full installation at Thermopyles, and long drive, they got a room in the first hotel they could find. After mustering up the energy to go out exploring, they found an amazing traditional Greek restaurant complete with live Bouzoukia music. Early the next morning it was time to sort out logistics. They had shipped our Solar Hub unit to a warehouse in the area the week prior, so theoretically all that was required was a trip over to pick it up and then take it on over to Softex for installation. But after driving for an hour from the hotel to the supposed warehouse location, they realized that no warehouse was there! After calling the office a few times, they found out that the warehouse had been moved to another place - right next to their hotel. Another hour's drive back in the cramped van and they were able to gather all the pieces to the unit, wrangle them into the van Tetris-style, and drive just a few minutes to Softex.

Barbed wire lines the Softex camp.

Once at the camp, the guys were immediately struck by the looming barbed wire fences and the thundering noise of construction. They soon found out that the camp is being completely renovated with residents soon to receive access to grid electricity and Isoboxes. Currently, residents live in tents inside an abandoned warehouse; the conditions in the camp were some of the most dire our team has seen.

Residents live in tents in the warehouse.

Residents live in tents in the warehouse.

Members of the military and the InterVolve NGO showed the guys around, and warned them that residents would steal cables and splice them together to tap into local electricity supplies. This behavioral precedent made them very concerned about our solution – most doubted it would survive the night. Accustomed to hearing this kind of skepticism but confident because all of Elpis’ previous units have remained unscathed for over 6 months, the boys carried on the hunt for a suitable location. Once it was picked, InterVolve came up with an innovative solution that would hide any exposed cords or wires, thus hopefully deterring any potential tamperers. The Solar Hub and digital library is now accessible right in front of the warehouse, next to the food distribution area.

The community of NGOs was very supportive in the camp, already expressing their wish to help develop tailored content for Softex and gather in-depth feedback from users. We are looking forward to seeing this camp’s infrastructure improve further and hope that our solution can offer people some hope in the midst of this uncertainty.

Alex using our digital library in its new location!

The final installation of the entire trip completed, the boys hopped back in the van for the 5 hours drive back to Athens. We are exhausted but so happy with our trip: 7 new units in action in 6 different camp locations, all completed in 5 days. New users across the country are exploring our offline informational platform and we look forward to receiving more feedback so we can continue to fine-tune our materials!

We are also thrilled to announce that we have exceeded our fundraising goal for this trip! With huge thanks to all who have supported us from near and far – our work would not be possible without you. Donations can still be made here.

We’re going to go sleep for a few days, but stay tuned for more progress, expansion, and partnership!

With love,

The Elpis Team