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Following UNHCR scoping missions to Dzaleka Refugee Camp in Malawi and Maratane Camp in Mozambique, this project responds to on the ground humanitarian needs through co created design-led interventions delivered through themes of:

1) Skills & self agency

2) Community cohesion

3) Emerging just futures

The project also explores and connects the following areas: social, climate and racial justice; changing the world through our creative endeavour; cross sectoral boundary breaking projects, bringing together HE with Industry, communities, the Humanitarian sector and our future online educated students from the Global South; and CSF’s experience in participatory design and co-inquiry with refugees and displaced people, in particular Helen’s expertise in working with refugees and collaborating with the UNHCR since 2016.

Vital Signs

Vital Signs is a development of Professor Helen Storey's 'UNHCR Designer in Residence' experience & role over 7 years in Zaatari Refugee Camp, Jordan.

Ruled by how reality shows itself

Collaborating with the long-term displaced people in Africa involves direct engagement with and being in relationship to, some of the biggest global challenges we face: chronic poverty, hunger, social injustice, inequality, lack of education, gender-based violence and climate change. All our work takes place with people whose lives are permanently affected by all the above hardships.

Currently the work is experienced and navigated through two projects across the camps:

The role of making in reversing refugee dependency on NGO support, through the reimagining of relationships and partnerships.

This project uses participatory design to re-configure the relationships between refugees, NGOs & the local industry.

UNHCR procures soap, annually, from approved industrial suppliers, to refugees/ Internally Displaced People (IDPs) population country-wide.

Instead of relying on industrial suppliers, this project seeks to establish a new & unprecedented social enterprise model that contracts refugees and IDPs in Mozambique as suppliers, to make and provide the soap for the UNHCR country wide.

The future of LCF online learning & knowledge exchange through textiles and embroidery.

This project uses participatory design to co-create new online curriculum that involves physical making beyond university walls. A pilot initiative designed to support access to education for students living in extreme learning environments.

Globally, only 6% of refugees have access to higher education, in comparison with 40% of non refugees. The UNHCR introduced a target called ' 15 by 30' aimed at increasing the enrolment of refugees into higher education from the current 6% to 15% by 2030.

Together, as part of the ambitions of UAL Sanctuary, this work seeks to support meeting the target of '15 by 30'.

Co-design new content through online knowledge exchange with refugee makers in the Global South, in collaboration with the MA Fashion Textiles Technology course & MA Strategic Fashion Marketing.

Test and assess our methods of teaching, the cultural appropriateness of our offer and what new knowledge might inform teaching and learning in places of extreme life circumstances.

Young girls in Dzaleka Refugee Camp stitching a communal embroidered blanket

Project Outputs

  • A co created film

  • Artefacts

  • Commercial products

  • New knowledge

  • Curriculum design and transformation

Project Team

  • Prof Helen Storey - Professor of Fashion & Science, UAL 

  • Deepa Patel - Independent peace maker and facilitator

Contact for the project 

Prof Helen Storey, Professor of Fashion & Science, UAL




  • UNHCR Mozambique (team of 10)

  • Livaningo (UNHCR nominated NGO delivery partner on the ground - team of 4)

  • IFPELAC (UNHCR nominated camp outreach and education partner - team of 3)

  • UNHCR Malawi (Team of 8)

  • Salama Africa (established community of 52 artists, performers and makers, and 600 young digital lab learners) Tumaini Festival - Malawi

  • British Council, Malawi - Director of office.

  • Givaudan (South Africa, Paris, Geneva - Team of 4)

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