Mortham and students sell bracelets made by Syrian refugees

Art teacher Nicole Mortham is making a global impact in the Redwood community through a project she started this school year: selling bracelets made by the Syrian refugees living on the island of Lesbos, Greece.

Nicole Mortham showcases one of the handmade bracelets.

Nicole Mortham showcases one of the handmade bracelets.

Over the summer, Mortham visited Lesbos to help the refugees fleeing Syria. She noticed that the majority of the refugees on the outskirts of the refugee camp, Moria, were middle-aged men with nothing to do but wait for potential asylum.

“Some of them have been stuck there for a really long time, so the refugee crisis is forgotten, but it is still an active problem. There’s still boats landing everyday with more refugees trying to make their way to safety,” Mortham said.

Discarded life jackets are thrown into a growing heap after refugees land on shore.

Discarded life jackets are thrown into a growing heap after refugees land on shore.

Each person in a boat wears a lifejacket that is eventually thrown into a growing heap on the island, according to Mortham. Mortham saw the substantial amount of discarded lifejackets and decided to do something helpful for the refugees.

“I wanted to make a positive impact while I was there and something sustainable when I got back,” Mortham said.

Mortham and her boyfriend decided to rent a scooter and drive out to the location of the lifejackets. They stuffed their backpacks full of the neon material and brought it back to Moria. Mortham sat down with a group of Syrian men whom she had befriended and started to make bracelets from strips of the lifejacket material.

The Syrian refugees on the island of Lesbos, Greece are making bracelets out of lifejacket material.

The Syrian refugees on the island of Lesbos, Greece are making bracelets out of lifejacket material.

“We wanted something for the guys to do everyday and make a little bit of income. We purchased the jewelry from them before we left, and we’ve been working on selling the bracelets here,” Mortham said. “Any extra money we make, we send back to the guys.”

Students have been getting involved by selling bracelets and coming up with ways to spread awareness. Ines Schwartz, president of Amnesty International club, is helping Mortham with the bracelet project.

“I thought it would be a cool idea to bring this project to the club because we’re a human rights club,” Schwartz said. “The club could help sell the bracelets and we could take on the project with Ms. Mortham’s support.

Lauren Hvistendahl, a member of the Amnesty International club, has been participating in the bracelet project too.

“I think this is a cool community project to help those who aren’t as fortunate as we are. It is good to shine light on people who most of our community doesn’t think about,” Hvistendahl said.

The leftover life jacket material is braided into these bracelets.

The leftover life jacket material is braided into these bracelets.

Members of the club have expressed their interest in the refugee crisis by devoting time to sell these bracelets. Students and faculty may purchase bracelets on Nov. 17, during lunch. There will be a table on the south lawn with informative posters and bracelets for sale.

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