#HacktheCamp: The creative marathon to find sustainable solutions to refugee issues in Greece

Posted on Posted in News, Projects

By Lida Tsene

After three intensive days of presentations and cooperation with their #HackTheCamp mentors, ten teams of programmers, refugees, designers, social entrepreneurs, humanitarian workers, educators, and artists competed with their proposals during the final phase of the hackathon creative marathon to find sustainable, scalable solutions for refugee issues in Greece.

How can we improve living conditions for refugees? How can they access reliable information on their legal status? What kind of opportunities are available or can be created for refugees? How can we tap into the many skills that moving populations bring with them? How can populations in transit and local populations come closer and develop an intercultural dialogue?

These are some of the challenges that Hack the Camp (#HackTheCamp) attempted to address.

In the first phase of Hack the Camp, which took place October 21-22 at Diplareios School, Athens, more than 70 participants and 30 experts from the fields of education, technology, culture, and humanitarian aid became a dynamic team that worked collaboratively to address the needs of refugees and migrants during this crisis. The contribution of refugees and migrants to offer their skills and experience was significant.

The final Hack the Camp was held on December 2-4, 2016 and was organized by Impact Hub Athens, the Onassis Cultural Center and the U.S. Embassy in Athens in collaboration with two international organisations with extensive experience in organising humanitarian hackathons: Creative Associates from the U.S. and International Alert from Great Britain.


  • Autonomous Water Supply
  • Book On The Way
  • Co-Producing The Camp
  • Hopestarter
  • Match & Teach Me For Integration
  • NativeNet
  • Radio Transit
  • RefWay Αpplication
  • Refergon



Team “NativeNet” won the first prize and $10,000 by presenting a smart mobile application that brings together all services available for refugees in Arabic, Farsi, and English. It also includes basic Greek lessons and enables refugees to show off their skills and get in touch with NGOs and other potential employers.

Second prize and $6,000 was awarded to Team “Refergon”, which proposed an easier way for refugees to access the labor market through existing social networks by developing a chatbot. At the same time, in cooperation with NGOs and academic institutions, Refergon will offer training for refugees to acquire business skills.

Refugee participants contributed as members of the NativeNet and Refergon teams.

The “Autonomous Water Supply” team focused on the issue of hygiene, winning third place and $4,000. The team cleverly designed a portable, collapsable sink that improves refugees’ access to clean water, especially vulnerable groups such as women and unaccompanied minors.

Special mention was given to the “EterART” team who proposed a performing arts project for children from different cultures, using their own bodies as percussion instruments.


The winning teams will receive mentoring and business incubation support from Impact Hub Athens for the next four months. They also have the option of joining the Microsoft BizSpark program, which provides access to innovative software development tools. The cash prizes and additional services are designed to help the teams put their winning ideas into practice to benefit refugees.

Microsoft actively supported this initiative by furnishing prize money, offering technological and business mentoring groups, and providing software, which contributed to the successful implementation of the Hack the Camp ideas. Intel also provided free technological equipment for participants that will develop hardware solutions. Free localisation services for participants courtesy of Transifex. 


Two international organisations with long experience in humanitarian-related hackathons will act as consultants, facilitators and moderators at the events. Creative Associates from the U.S. and International Alert from the UK will be the main facilitators of Hack the Camp.

Microsoft actively supports Hack the Camp by contributing to the monetary prizes, offering technological and entrepreneurial mentoring services to the teams, as well as software and devices, helping towards the success of the initiative.

GFOSS – Open Technologies Alliance within the context of the ongoing collaboration with the Onassis Cultural Center in Athens, actively supports Hack the Camp with demonstrations of open hardware and software while partners of the Open Technologies Alliance will participate in both stages of Hack the Camp and support the participating teams in using collaborative design and programming tools, as well as enable them to share their creations on open collaborative platforms.

Congratulations to the winning teams of the hackathon: NativeNetRefergon and Autonomous Water supply!

You can find photos from Hack the Camp herePhoto Credit: (ɔ) Angel Ballesteros, CC BY-SA

Make sure to also check the Facebook Group and #HackTheCamp on Twitter for the latest news and updates!

Catching up with promising startups from Techfugees Australia

Posted on Posted in News, Projects

By Annie Parker

With Techfugees chapters located in dozens of cities around the world, there’s a lot happening. We catch up with three of the most promising startups to grow out of Techfugees Australia.


SYD 2015 Winners


SettleIn creates psychologically informed goal-setting technology to help newly arrived refugees settle into their new country. Their software is used in case management and psychosocial support, designed to be accessible for every person of a refugee background, regardless of age, language, education or ability.

Over the last six months, SettleIn has formed a partnership with education company Momentum Cloud, and are currently working on a universally accessible design in collaboration with a British graphic designer specialising in designing software for people with disabilities.

In 2017, they aim to complete their first pilot with Settlement Services International (SSI) and STARTTS, two Australian NGOs who resettle refugees in New South Wales. They’ll also be coming to the UK with two versions of the software, along with a professional goal-setting tool aimed at staff.

You can support SettleIn by connecting them to refugee service organisations in the UK. You could also be able to help them find expert pro-bono advice on how to make the software accessible internationally, while maintaining strict safety and security protocols.

Refugee Talent

SYD 2015 runner-up


Refugee Talent is a social enterprise platform matching refugees looking for work with relevant vacancies.

The platform was created by Nirary Dacho, a Syrian refugee who arrived in Australia in 2015 with a Masters in Web Science, but still struggled to find suitable employment. After meeting Anna Robson at the Techfugees Sydney hackathon, Refugee Talent was born.

In their first year of operation, Refugee Talent has had more than 300 candidates signed up, along with 100 companies across Australia. The startup has placed dozens of candidates in meaningful employment in both Sydney and Melbourne and assisted all candidates with enhancing their resumes and job readiness workshops.

They’ve also run two ‘speed dating’ events, where 20 companies and 50 refugee candidates have had the chance to take part in multiple job interviews and network with prospective employers.

In 2017, they aim to expand to other states and run more events in Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth, as well as New Zealand. Refugee Talent is also working on a pilot project with Talent Beyond Boundaries, where companies using the platform can hire highly skilled refugees from overseas.


SYD Winners 2016


ArtCrew is a public art mentorship program and online community for young people with refugee and migrant backgrounds.

The online platform presents monthly topics and articles on current issues within youth refugee communities, based on data and research generated by SSI. Members of the online community are encouraged to respond creatively to these topics.

Each month, 5-10 young people are selected to be a part of an ArtCrew in which they learn design and public art skills from professional artist mentors, and paint murals in the Greater Western Sydney region over a 12-month period.

In late 2016, they developed a strategic partnership with Parramatta Council. The council has been a key supporter of Welcome Walls, our current community public arts campaign which aims to welcome refugees into our communities through the medium of public art.

In the first month of 2017, they secured five sites at which to create large-scale community murals. These murals have been designed through a co-design process with community members from refugee and migrant backgrounds at our first ever community design workshop.

For 2017, their focus is on creating a sustainable business model that enables the public art program to grow and attract the right partners, requiring them to raise around $200,000. They’re also exploring the augmented reality and virtual reality potential of murals and public space in order to make ArtCrew a technologically relevant and innovative business.

Later this year, they aim to develop a working pilot model that can be taken overseas in order to bring ArtCrew to other communities around the world.

Connections on fundraising and how to grow the business overseas would be much appreciated! Take a look at their crowdfunding campaign.

Looking for more info?

Get involved and support your regional Techfugees chapter
Find out more about these three promising startups: SettleIn, Refugee Talent and ArtCrew.

About the author

Annie Parker – Techfugees Sydney, CEO Lighthouse, co-founder muru-D, Chair Code Club Aus, Chair Mahuki.


Can you help Project Elpis increase the impact of their solar hubs?

Posted on Posted in Infrastructure, News

By Samuel Kellerhals

Project Elpis has developed six solar-powered hubs, which are charging 18,000 phones per month in Greece. The goal is to upgrade these hubs so refugees can access educational, legal and other useful content securely and reliably. Find out three ways you can help.

elpis1 elpis2

We are Project Elpis (Greek for Hope) and we have developed a solar-powered charging station for refugee camps that charges up to 120 mobile phones every single day. We are upgrading our design and will include a Raspberry Pi 3 as a Wireless Access Point within our solar hubs so that users can connect to it over a wireless network and access locally stored educational, legal and other useful content securely and reliably. This content will include a myriad of useful mobile applications, along with educational content such as a library of books that refugees will be able to access on their mobile phones!

Our platform will provide a place where humanitarian digital service providers will be able to directly disseminate their content to refugee communities, by by-passing the knowledge and connectivity gap often encountered when first trying to reach out to refugees with an innovative humanitarian digital service. Currently, there are six solar hubs in operation, charging more than 18,000 phones per month in Greece. The aim is to expand our impact and upgrade all our units with the Raspberry Pi’s at the end of February 2017.

How can you help?

  1. Content ideas

We welcome ideas, feedback and advice from the Techfugees community on what content we should integrate on our platform. What would be most useful? Do share your thoughts.

  1. Tell us about your humanitarian digital services

Would you like to feature your own services on our platform? We are seeking voluntary help from programmers, developers, web designers and anyone who would like to partner with us on our platform to disseminate their digital services to refugees.

  1. Help us develop our user interface

We’re looking for people skilled in web development to help us build a web-based interface similar to the one pictured. We need to lay out the content in a simple manner and offer the option to search.

This includes the following actions:

  1. Setting up an efficient server and ensuring its security and reliability. Our current server of choice is Jetty, which is built in with Pippo (pictured).
  2. Ensuring the Wireless Access Point of Raspberry Pi 3 is reliable and adjusted to the anticipated load.
  3. Developing the website to display the content and setting up a database.

Our primary criterion is performance, since the connection is going to be limited in speed and capability. Therefore, we want to develop the application as lightweight and efficient as possible, while keeping it maintainable.

Our choice for a web framework is Java Pippo. Since the same criteria apply to the database, we want to develop with H2. For the user interface, we want to keep it simple and intuitive, both for user experience and performance reasons.

  1. Setting up automated deployment. We want to be able to set up any new Raspberry with the help of automated deployment. This should make it very easy to keep the different Raspberries across developers in sync as well.
  2. Ensuring the Raspberry is running on minimal possible power consumption. This would include disabling unnecessary interfaces and removing unnecessary packages, possibly doing other tweaking as well.
  3. Measuring the server and Raspberry performance and power consumption for statistics. This could be useful to us in order to know where we could improve, and to people doing similar projects. Also, we want to keep logs of user activity.

Keep in touch with Project Elpis

If you can help with the website build, have ideas for content or would like to put your own humanitarian digital services on our platform, please get in touch!

Looking forward to hearing from you all!

Project Elpis Team, Students at the University of Edinburgh


How Technology Can Empower Local Refugee Communities Webinar with Cities of Migration

Posted on Posted in Events, Infrastructure

Techfugees joined Cities of Migration online on November 23 for a conversation with Alan Vernon, Project Lead, Connectivity for Refugees, UNHCR, UN Refugee Agency to unpack UNHRC’s latest report, Connecting Refugees: How Internet and Mobile Connectivity Can Improve Refugee Well-Being and Transform Humanitarian Action. 

The webinar discussed the critical role that information and communications technology plays in improving the lives of refugees from city to city.

From the lifeline of mobile connectivity to internet basics for e-registering health and other  services, ICT and online platforms are providing scalable tech solutions that facilitate refugee connection and inclusion and driving enduring social innovation offline.


The webinar started with Alan Vernon presenting UNHCR latest report on connectivity, followed by questions from Josephine, CEO of Techfugees, and a Q&A for the audience to contribute to a wider discussion.

About Alan Vernon, Project Lead, Connectivity for Refugees, UNHCR

Alan Vernon is currently the Project Lead for UNHCR’s new Connectivity for Refugees initiative. Prior to his current assignment, Mr. Vernon was the Deputy-Director of the Division of Information Systems and Telecommunications in UNHCR Headquarters, the UNHCR Representative in Malaysia, and the Director for Organizational Development and Management in UNHCR Headquarters. Mr. Vernon previously served as UNHCR Representative in Sri Lanka as well as field assignments in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, and Thailand.


Want to know more about Techfugees’ next event and how to get involved? Check our calendar of events – or simply your city’s Techfugees local chapter.

Photo credits: Yemeni refugee shows his son’s picture on a mobile phone. © UNHCR/Oualid Khelifi  – from UNHCR report.

Refugee Education: 15 questions to consider

Posted on Posted in Education, News, Projects

Julia Citron, Techfugees Education advisor, set out to compile a database of refugee education initiatives to help innovators discover what’s already out there. Find out more about how she carried out the research and see her 15-question checklist for innovators in education looking to help refugees.

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Photo credit: Edlumino, refugee school led by UK headteacher Rory Fox

Jump to…

As a result of your research, you’ve put together 15 questions to help define refugee learner groups and a database of education initiatives. What led you to carry out the research?

Like so many people, I saw the news and wanted to help. Last, year I set up a blended learning programme for maths and science teachers who were stuck in the collapsed Spanish economy and wanted to come to the UK to start a better life. I wondered whether there might be scope to design digital learning programmes for refugee children and adults that would be flexible enough for them to access on the go and with very few resources. To find out more about the context, I visited a refugee camp in Calais.

What were your initial findings?

That the landscape for refugee learning was even more complex than I’d anticipated. Some children had good English, others had none, some families had means, others were deep in debt, some looking to settle in France, others were in transition, some children had smartphones, others didn’t – all factors which would affect what truly accessible and relevant education might look like for them.

The complexity of refugee’s contexts has been a challenge for innovators across the world tackling the crisis. In Calais, I saw several initiatives set up by passionate individuals and organisations which were having a strong impact on the users they reaching.

However, many more potential users weren’t able to truly access what they were offering due to invisible barriers – from unsafe streets in the camp stopping girls leaving the house to children busy sleeping through the days after spending long nights trying to get on lorries.

The more I researched refugee education initiatives, the more found this pattern – apps built at hackathons which weren’t being adopted, groups of children ineligible to access schooling programmes as their UNHCR papers were out of date. Unanticipated issues which were stopping groups of users from accessing the services and tools which on the surface seemed available to them.

What is your research based on?

Desk research and a visit to a refugee camp in Calais. The research was carried out in my spare time over 3-4 months.

Who could use your research and how?

  • Education innovators could use the 15 questions:
    • To identify which user groups they are targeting and ensure that they are consulting representatives of all the groups from the beginning of the design process
    • To consider which invisible barriers might prevent their users from accessing the services they offer (and mitigate them)
  • Donors could use the 15 questions to map the refugee education space and identify underfunded niches.
  • Education innovators could use the database to connect with people who are running or have run similar initiatives to join forces or share learnings

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What are the problems you hope your research will help solve?

  • Organizations investing time, effort and money but failing to have an impact on as many people as they could because they haven’t taken account of the diversity of their users’ needs.
  • Projects being less successful than they could as actors haven’t learnt from similar previous experiences.
  • Organisations duplicating projects because they don’t know about them
  • Niches of people with unique sets of needs (e.g.: minority languages) whose needs are being overlooked.
  • Organisations spending unnecessary time on desk research when they could be taking action.

What initiatives are already out there? What are they trying to achieve and who are they helping?

  • Most initiatives for children aim to deliver basic literacy and numeracy, sometimes with psychosocial skills
  • There are emerging models for higher education which involve a large component of online learning and mentoring with some face to face work. E.g.: Following MOOCs but in a camp classroom setting (Edraak), Kiron University, Jumiyah
  • There are several emerging models of blended digital education programmes such as Re:loaded and Re-di training a highly selected pool of candidates to become software engineers
  • Many education initiatives provide, as a starting point, a safe physical space for children to be during the day e.g.: Edlumino, UNICEF blue dot

What were your key findings having completed the research?

  • The user landscape is complex – collaborative design with end users is a must
  • There are no mature solutions yet which give refugees access to education from the day they can’t attend school in their home country to to the day their start formal education in their new country of asylum
  • The eco-system is still immature with little knowledge sharing
  • There are many promising initiatives but most are still in their infancy and being tested
  • Although many refugees have smartphones, there is far from consistently one per family member including all children and internet access is often unreliable and expensive. I think connectivity is a big part of the puzzle.

What would your message be to education innovators?

Go for it but co-create with end users from day 1.

According to Save The Children, at least 3.5 million refugee children are out of education. Millions more are in inadequate, overstretched school systems unable to meet their needs.

Although camps only represent a small part of the world refugee population, the average time spent in a camp is 17 years – more working solutions are needed.

As well as children’s education, every displaced adult is in need of re-training for work and integration in their new country.

The complexity of refugees’ situation means that there are multiple groups of people with distinct needs looking for unique solutions. Lots of room for innovation!

What are your next steps?

I’d like to share the research with innovators, ed-tech organisations and funders in the space.

How can other people get involved?

Please do:

  • enrich the framework with suggested extra questions
  • enrich the database with any missing initiatives we should know about
  • share the research with people who might find it helpful!

Contact Julia

To get in touch with Julia, please send her an email

15 questions to help define refugee learners

Where can I find the database of initiatives?

Refugee learners’ needs: framework of questions

Posted on Posted in Education, Projects

Julia Citron, Techfugees Education advisor, has put together 15 questions to help define refugee learner groups and a database of education initiatives for innovators in education looking to help refugees.

This checklist aims:

  • To help educators pre-empt barriers to learning
  • To help educators identify their end users so they can co-create programmes with them from the beginning of the design process
  • To help entrepreneurs, funders and policy makers ensure that no groups of refugee learners are left behind without solutions that are truly accessible and relevant to them.

Note : Each question will most likely have multiple answers. The bullet points are non-exhaustive suggestions.  

  1. Which age group are they?
  •       Pre-nursery
  •       Nursery
  •       Kindergarden
  •       Lower Primary
  •       Upper Primary
  •       Lower Secondary
  •       Upper Secondary
  •       Vocational
  •       Special Needs
  •       Graduate
  •       Postgraduate
  1. What level of education do they have?
  •       Never educated
  •       3 years + out of education
  •     0-3 years out of education
  •     On track with age expectations (children only)

.     Vocational skills but no qualification

  •     Vocational qualification
  •     Qualification from home country

.     Part-way through a qualification in home country

  1. Which phase in refugee journey are they at?
  •       School closed down / too dangerous to go
  •       Internally displaced
  •       In a camp in their country of origin
  •       In a camp in a neighbouring country
  •       In transition – less than 1 month since arrival and intend to move in less than a month
  •       Waiting for asylum outcome – free to move
  •       Waiting for asylum outcome – incarcerated
  •       Asylum outcome rejected or appealing an asylum outcome – living illegally
  •       Asylum outcome rejected or appealing an asylum outcome – incarcerated
  •       Refugee status granted – papers up to date
  •       Refugee status granted – papers out of date
  •       Newly arrived at school full time in host country
  •       Settled in formal schooling in host country
  1. What is their country of origin? What is their home language (might be different)?
  •       Syria
  •       Iraq (multiple languages)
  •       Afghanistan (multiple languages)
  •       Pakistan
  •       Nigeria
  •       Somalia
  •       Ethiopia
  •       Eritrea
  1. Where are they now?
  •       Lebanon
  •       Jordan
  •       Turkey
  •       Iraq
  •       Germany
  •       Sweden
  •       Greece
  •       Italy
  •       UK
  •       France
  1. What gender are they?
  •       Male
  •       Female
  1. What are their talents and interests?
  •       Sports
  •       Arts
  •       Technology
  •       Current affairs and politics
  •       Business
  •       Languages
  1. What do they currently do during the day?
  •       Play / nothing
  •       Work part time
  •       Work full time
  •       In inadequate schooling arrangement
  •       Currently home-schooled
  •       Other (involved in crime, walking between countries, trying to get on lorries, detained)
  1. What is my their current mindset in relation to learning?
  •       Other psychological priorities
  •       Hungry to learn
  •       Needs encouragement
  1. What parental support do they have?
  •       Accompanied with engaged adult
  •       Accompanied but adult disengaged
  •       Unaccompanied and no relationships with a trusted, motivated adult
  •       Unaccompanied by relationships with a trusted, motivated adult
  1. What are their current living conditions?
  •       In a formal camp
  •       In an informal camp
  •       In formal housing (urban)
  •       In formal housing (rural)
  1. What is their family’s economic situation?
  •       Low : couldn’t afford data, basic school equipment, transport to school, children working
  •       Middle : children could not work but couldn’t afford transport to school or fees
  •       High : could afford some school fees & transport
  1. What access do they have to tech?
  •     No smartphone access
  •     Access to laptop or tablet in camp
  •     1 smartphone / laptop per family
  •       Own smartphone
  1. What access do they have to the internet?
  •       Strong wifi available
  •       Poor wifi available
  •       Wifi available free at specific local points
  •       Only privately paid for data available 3G
  •       Only privately paid for data available 4G
  •       No data or wifi available
  1. What type of education will this provide?
  •       Formal : recognized curriculum / qualifications
  •       Semi-formal : non-recognized curriculum / qualifications
  •       Informal : Psychosocial / play / educational games

How can I help?

Please feel free to :

.   Suggest missing key questions from the framework above

.   Enrich the database below with refugee education initiatives we should know about

.   Share the research with people who might find it useful

Where is the database of refugee education initiatives?

Here is the link

Q&A : context of the research

See article on Techfugees blog



Meet the Techies: Helping refugees in Calais stay connected

Posted on Posted in Projects

This is the first in a series of stories to meet the people behind projects that connect refugees to life-saving technologies. If you would like to be featured, please contact us.

“I can see how much this project means to refugees here in Calais, and I dream that more people could benefit.” 

Acknowledged as a basic human right by the United Nations, a refugee’s need for Internet connectivity has been well documented – from helping talk to friends and family back home, to navigating Europe’s tricky borders. Most recently, refugees in Greece stopped rioting in order to let the WiFi repair men work, with Quartz reporting that, “being connected is almost as important as being fed.”

Info Bus Picture for Techfugees of a Refugee
Credit: Info Bus Facebook

But for migrants and refugees stuck in the makeshift ‘Jungle’ camp in Calais, a lack of basic infrastructure means that getting online is a constant struggle.

That is, until the Refugee Info Bus stepped in.

After volunteering in the Jungle Books library, Info Bus co-founders Rowan Farrell and Sarah Story realized that two vital services were largely missing from the camp: legal information on refugee rights and Internet access.

Though Sarah is has a background in legal work with Asylum Seekers in the UK and is currently studying a LLB in Scots law, neither have a technical background.

“The whole idea behind the grassroots humanitarian relief here in Calais from the very start, is that if nobody else is going to do it, then you have to,” Rowan explained. “And you do it in solidarity, hand in hand with the refugees that you are helping; making things better together.”

A converted horse box, bought with the support of Help Refugees, acts as a mobile tech hub, primarily supplying free internet access, phone charging stations and digital literacy via tablet and laptop terminals.

Credit: Info Bus Facebook

Starting with small SIM-operated WiFi routers that could only accommodate 15 users at a time, they would pool together their smartphones and turn them into hotspots so that a few more people could get online.

Today, the Info Bus has a much larger set-up, thanks to a partnership with The Worldwide Tribe.

The hugely popular organization now accommodates up to 150 people at a time and averages 500 unique users over a 4 hour period.

“Each SIM card has a data limit of 50GB a month, so even with some data forming (limiting YouTube quality and a maximum download speed, no torrents, etc.) we still go through 3 or 4 SIM cards a week. This is obviously far more expensive than wired broadband, but there is no electricity in the camp, let alone a phone line.”

So what do people get up to online? “It’s mostly social media and lots of voice calls.”

Because it is such a lifeline to the outside world, turning it off can be incredibly difficult.

“I say ‘OK, finish in 20 minutes’ and they say ‘OK, no problem 20 minutes’. 30 minutes later, I say ‘OK, finish now’ and someone says ‘my friend 80%’ I look at him downloading WhatsApp or Facebook or something. ‘OK, when this guy gets to 100’ and then someone is on to their Mum, or downloading pictures of their kids. But I finally say, ‘my friends! I need to go to sleep’ and they all finally go, ‘OK, OK, thank you so much, same time tomorrow? Where will you be exactly?’ Maybe I should sleep in it and leave it on.”

Credit: Info Bus Facebook
Credit: Info Bus Facebook

The Info Bus hopes to expand in the near future. “I can see how much this project means to refugees here in Calais, and I dream that more people could benefit.”

You can follow the Info Bus’ story on Twitter and Facebook. You can also donate to the project here: https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/refugeeinfobus

Rowan (@Rowan_Farrell) will be speaking at Techfugees Cambridge’s event this Saturday 2nd of July! www.rowanfarrell.co.uk