shelter box

What is ShelterBox?

Rotarian Tom Henderson asked himself one question when watching news coverage of a natural disaster in 2000: “What would my family need to survive if we lost everything?” Tom made a list of everything he thought he would need and then set about filling a box with all the items on the list. A decade of evolution later and the result is ShelterBox.

ShelterBox is an international disaster relief charity that provides humanitarian aid worldwide in the form of shelter, warmth and dignity for people displaced by natural and other disasters.  The organization provides emergency shelter and lifesaving supplies for families around the world who are affected by disasters, at the time when they need it the most.  Now firmly established at the forefront of disaster relief, ShelterBox has responded to over 200 major disasters in more than 80 countries, assisting more than 1 million families.

How is it funded?  ShelterBox is an independent charity that relies on public donations to carry out its work.  It is the largest Rotary Club project in the world and has raised more than $4 million in donations.   Peninsula Rotary Club President Cheri Diehl became enamored with the project when training to be the club’s leader this year.  “I knew that I wanted to champion our club raising funds to buy at least one ShelterBox this year” Diehl noted.  “With the final push to end Polio happening right now, Rotarians are ready to push up our sleeves for another global project” Diehl explained.  “In addition to all we do in our local communities, of course” she was quick to add.  “Christmas Angels Trees will be up in the banks soon!”

Cheri Diehl presents Bill Woodard with a check for ShelterBox, courtesy of the Peninsula Rotary Club

Cheri Diehl presents Bill Woodard with a check for ShelterBox, courtesy of the Peninsula Rotary Club

It’s all about the tent.   ShelterBox keeps a broad range of equipment in stock so as to adapt the contents of aid delivered depending on the nature and location of the disaster. The organization responds the needs relayed from the field and is able to send specific stand-alone items should they be requested. The contents of the box may vary but each box typically contains: a 10-person tent, blankets, water purification and cooking equipment, basic tools, a stove and other essential equipment. All boxes are numbered so donors can track them.

“Many times, a full box isn’t the needed response” pointed out presenter Bill Woodard.  “For example, the need in the wake of Sandy this past week has been for blankets and sleeping bags.  People have shelter, but not warmth.”

A Shelter Box costs a $1,000, provides emergency housing and supplies to support up to 10 Families.  The $1000 cost includes all materials, packing, storage, transport worldwide and distribution to the final recipients. Assuming six month’s use, this equates to shelter and warmth for 55¢ per family per day. ShelterBox works closely with key suppliers to ensure all items are of a high quality and are purchased at the most competitive price.

A volunteer ShelterBox Response Team whose members have undergone an intensive training program undertakes the delivery of Shelter Boxes. ShelterBox prides itself on its speedy response to disasters and often works closely with Rotary clubs in recipient countries enabling it to get aid to where it is needed faster than many other charitable organizations.  Boys Scouts of America are another partner and the American Red Cross is the largest single purchaser of the boxes.  ShelterBox is frequently the first of responders at the site of a disaster, wherever in the world it takes place.

At a presentation by ShelterBox volunteers hosted by the Peninsula Rotary Club, community members asked if the boxes were available for purchase in planning for a disaster.  Due to the demand for boxes to meet the international need, they aren’t available for purchase.  “Besides” noted Woodard, “those tent are a lot more than you’d need here in the Pacific Northwest.  Some of the tents we sent to Haiti are still being used as primary shelter some three years later, despite being designed for six months of use.  They keep families warm in sub-zero and desert environments.  You could mimic the concept to put your own boxes together quite readily to prepare for a disaster here.”

Diehl’s dream came true at the end of the evening’s program when she presented a check from the club to ShelterBox for $1,000.  “We hope you won’t need to use the box this check funds…and that we’ll be ready to donate another when you do dispatch it” she said.  Indeed.


But really…what’s in the box?
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