Being given an assignment from school is more often than not associated with yet another job needed to tick as completed rather than making something long-lasting and with grave importance to humanity.
However, when MIT Sloan School of Management undergraduate Vick Liu was given this task, he knew he wanted to draw up something worthwhile.
It was freshman year and Liu was in a group with five other students who were participating in a preorientation exercise just like him when he came up with a concept that could be a serious game changer for people all over the world. Liu grabbed a napkin and scribbled what would later turn out to be the first draft of the TravlerPack – a water-resistant sleeping bag that is both light and durable, all while being able to withstand severe weather conditions.
“TravlerPack was a natural transition for me, since I went backpacking and camping growing up,” said Liu excitedly.
Over 11 million individuals have been displaced since the beginning of Syria’s civil war in 2011. Out of this shocking statistic, millions have not had adequate heating, shelter or food during the country’s freezing winter months. Hearing of these people’s poor conditions and inability to keep warm, Liu decided he must come up with a realistic idea that would not require much money, preparation or sources that are hard to come by, like fuel.
“The refugee crisis is a huge problem, and I have experience with something that could really help people.”
Once designing the first bag, it was only a matter of time until Liu received the first prototype since he was keen on testing it out for himself. Once it arrived, Liu used TravlerPack while sleeping on the roof of his fraternity house. The night he chose to carry out the experiment was during a snowstorm in Boston, so that the temperatures could resemble the ones in Syria. And indeed, despite the fact temperatures dropped to 15 degrees Fahrenheit, Liu stayed warm.
Last September, Liu and his team launched a GoFungMe campaign and quickly reached their goal of raising $15,000. Thanks to the wide support they have received, they were able to send many TravlerPacks to Syrian refugees.
“We’ve been really lucky the whole way through,” said Liu. “This has been a journey of luck, intuition, and a lot of planning.”