Boxwise is an App created in 2016 by Hans Gurtner and Bart Driessen while volunteering at Nea Kavala, a refugee camp in Northern Greece. In a single week they designed the app to help the distribution of hygiene items and clothes within the camp. We engaged a conversation with the project leader, Hans Gurtner, who said:

Boxwise is a way to enable a organization to be fair. To run a shop in a refugee camp the most important thing is to be fair.”

Before the creation of the app the system of distribution caused many problems in the community, refugees would spend hours queuing for items that maybe were not necessary or didn’t fit. There was no fair system to make environment safe and comfortable for both volunteers and refugees.

Then, a free shop was created to maintain a relationship of costumer and retailer. In that way, all the clothes from the donners are organized and stored as items in the app, where you can have an overview of all the items available. The refugees register themselves in the shop, and the app, in a random way sets appointments between the refugees and the volunteers. On that order, there are no queues and the process is more transparent and clear.

“The donations are collected by the organization but the process of distribution itself is made with the app because with paper and pen it’s impossible to rule a shop like this. So, we saw the problem and locked ourselves in front of the computer for a week and created the app.”

When clothes arrive to the camp they’re sorted in boxes in categories like t-shirts, jeans, gender or size. Then they’re labelled and a QR code is registered in Boxwise. This way the content of the box is registered in the app, offerig a simple system to keep track of what you have and where. The shops order through Boxwise what they need from the warehouse.

“During the appointment the family checks-in and they can get whatever is in the shop depending on how much tokens they have and how much each piece of clothing costs. At the end, there is a check-out.”

There are still some problems to be figured out, like the offline mode, but the main point is the positive impact that an app like this can have in a community. Hans Gurtner was this last September back in the Nea Kavala camp and saw how the shop itself became a part of the community and a place for gatherings and activities.

There are many possible futures for Boxwise, at the moment they’re focusing on refugee camps and how the system can improve the quality of life there. But for sure, a similar project could be used in big cities where poor people and homeless need help as well.

How can we help Boxwise?

If you’re a coder you can also be a part of the project: Boxwise is a open source. And before Christmas, on the 2th December a crowdfunding campaign will start, so you can help them maintain the organization and bring all the volunteers together!

This article has been created by participants of the youth exchange “Media Moving Forward” that was coordinated by the Youth Press Austria and supported by Erasmus+ programme of the EU.