Dr Zigs - Finalist in The UPS International Disaster Relief and Resilience Award

Dr Zigs ‘Bubble Crew’ creates joy in much needed situations
  • Helping kids on the ground and creating a family friendly atmosphere in refugee camps
  • Providing food and clothing from donations
  • Reaching thousands of people in UN and European refugee camps
Finalist: Award supported by the Department for International Development

Bringing joy to the faces of children caught up in life or death situations is central to the business model for Bangor-based fundraising and donation business, Dr Zigs.

With the Syrian refugee crisis, we are witnessing one of the biggest humanitarian disasters to happen in Europe since the Second World War.

Giant soap bubble specialist Dr Zigs created social responsibility project Bubbles Not Bombs – which has been around since the company’s inception – sending direct aid to children who need them around the world.

“I'm not sure if it really was a conscious choice,” says Paola Dyboski-Bryant, Bubbler in Chief at Dr Zigs. “Rather I think it was a reaction to a tragic and desperate situation.”

Creating joy through bubbles

From UN refugee camps in Lebanon and Syria to the favelas in Rio, bubbles are helping children be children again, if only for a moment. When volunteers use the bubbles in refugee camps, crowds of 50 or more children gather to run and play.

“The joy on children’s faces – who less than 24 hours previously had been in a life or death situation at sea, who have fled from war, and who are about to embark on difficult journeys ahead – when they see and play with our bubbles is one of the most moving things I’ve ever seen,” says Dyboski-Bryant.

Helping kids on the ground, and using bubbles as the centrepiece for its fundraising events across North Wales, Bangor-based Dr Zigs is now in its second year as a collection and sorting venue, with dedicated buildings for the donations of aid, food and clothing for refugees arriving on European doorsteps.

Partnering with solidarity group Pobl I Bobl (‘People to people’), which coordinates all the refugee volunteer groups throughout North Wales, it has reached hundreds of thousands of people in locations across Europe and UN refugee camps. Dr Zigs has contributed to five shipping containers worth of aid – including one sent directly from them – as well as many smaller shipments taken directly by volunteers visiting camps in France and northern Europe. The aim is to maintain this level of commitment going forward.

Increasing its impact

The Dr Zigs ‘Bubble Crew’ are trained and involved in accepting donations, storing them and loading the van. One member of the crew entertains children with bubbles during these events to create a family friendly atmosphere, and the firm also provides food and drink to local volunteers who are coordinated for sorting days.  

The company has increased its impact by at least 200 per cent over the first six months of this project, according to Dyboski-Bryant, based on the volume of children coming through refugee centres where it operates.

Dr Zigs spends around £200 on rent for its collection point and donates two days work of time, space and staff per month to organise local communities to come in and help it sort, pack and ship. Dyboski-Bryant estimates its outgoing investment to be 5 per cent of its profit, but reckons the increase in the business is about 8 per cent each year.

Turnover in Dr Zigs’ café has increased by 100 per cent on days when it has sorting events, and when people bring donations or help sort, they often enquire about bookings, such as birthday parties or weddings. Customers appreciate the work the organisation is doing and feel that they too can make a difference by buying products or taking part in one of the events.

And the community must be generous; Dyboski-Bryant says one of its challenges was “finding a space large enough to accommodate the volumes of aid that we were able to collect”.

It is actually by making contact with individuals travelling out to these areas – rather than going through bigger NGOs – that the company has made the most difference, and Dyboski-Bryant is proud of what the small business has achieved, picking up some great media attention along the way.

“I'd say that everyone should get involved,” says Dyboski-Bryant. “And it can be good for business as well as helping to make a difference.”

Dr Zigs certainly seems to be living up to its motto: ‘Changing the world one bubble at a time.’