Building something better: Lasse's Story

Lasse takes a short break from construction work at Ritsona refugee camp in front of the fence in our Female friendly space which he helped build.

Lasse takes a short break from construction work at Ritsona refugee camp in front of the fence in our Female friendly space which he helped build.

“When I arrived in April, Ritsona was a few weeks old. It was just white tents, like you see on television and the UNHCR camps all over the world. But there was nothing else, just tents”, says Lasse, long-term construction volunteer with Lighthouse Relief.

Lasse, who hails from Sweden, quickly changed that. Just about any structure you see at Ritsona — tents, furniture, ramps, fences, floors, the clinic — is Lasse’s handiwork.

“I spend time at this camp to help and give an input of what I know. I’m quite a handyman. I can do a lot of things, I have a lot of experiences from my life so I know what to bring here,” he says.

Indeed, Lasse has a wealth of knowledge and skills that he has been able to bring to the refugee camp in Ritsona, about one hours’ drive outside of Athens. Before relocating to Ritsona in April, Lasse spent three months receiving boats during the night shift in Lesvos and improving our Lighthouse camp during the day. Lasse’s education and work background is in mechanical engineering, and he also served as a professor of industrial photography in Switzerland.

Upon his retirement, Lasse took on different projects. He traveled the world for six years with an exhibition of 1,000 women who should be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. After that, he started humanitarian aid work in Kenya where he purified water and built homes and community spaces for locals.

Lasse surveys the handiwork of the construction team at Ritsona camp.

Lasse surveys the handiwork of the construction team at Ritsona camp.

Lasse encourages and sometimes helps residents to build up their tents.

“People in Ritsona were very insecure when they arrived, very frustrated, and now, they have developed their homes and have some privacy. They’re making furniture, ramps, small yards, they’re protecting themselves. I think that is very nice, because they try to fulfil their wishes."

“It’s not that they’ve settled down, but they realize that they are going to stay here for a while. I think this is a way to express it, through making furniture and installations to give them a little bit of a comfortable life for the time."

“What I do is work on the infrastructure by making fences, ramps, shade, staircases, and make repairs. I make small things, too,” says Lasse, referring to childproof locks, game tables and water tank stands. “I also make things function in the spaces Lighthouse Relief offers our services, at the Child friendly space, the Female friendly space and the Sexual and Reproductive Health center,” he adds.

Volunteers work together on a shade at the Female friendly space in Ritsona camp as Lasse looks on.

Volunteers work together on a shade at the Female friendly space in Ritsona camp as Lasse looks on.

Lasse has donated countless tools and hardware for the camp and hopes to create a loan system with the community before he leaves for new adventures.

Thank you, Lasse, for your incredible hard work, donations and time these last seven months. Residents and volunteers utilize Lasse’s infrastructure every day. Though we are sad to see Lasse go in August, we know that he will be an asset wherever he goes.