What ShelterBox is doing in the hurricane-ravaged Carribean

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A once-prosperous street in the business neighborhood of St. Maarten.

We have four ShelterBox Response Teams planning and overseeing relief activities in the Caribbean.

Our team based in Panama has moved to then island of Barbados to work in the coordination hub there (which includes organizations like DHL Disaster Response Team, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, and the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency). We will establish a ShelterBox hub on Barbados to work on the complex logistics of getting aid to the families who desperately need it.

A second team is working with Red Cross National Societies to start distributing the 500 ShelterKits from Panama. Location will be confirmed following completion of a needs assessment.

A third team is going to the Dominican Republic, and we’re hoping to provide another 500 ShelterKits from the Panama supply hub, along with training on how to use them, through partnering with Habitat for Humanity. Habitat oversees recovery efforts beyond this emergency phase, so that should ensure maximum benefit for the families we are helping.
A fourth left the U.S. this week to go to the British Virgin Islands to conduct needs assessments. Aid, including tents and ShelterBoxes, was packed in the United Kingdom, where ShelterBox originated, and are being shipped this week with the assistance of the airline Virgin Atlantic who stepped in to help with logistics.

Why does it take so long to get aid in?

As a charity, our resources are limited and we must go where the need is greatest. We have to take the time to get this right because giving the wrong aid to families could harm their recovery. Once they have received aid from one humanitarian agency they are unlikely to be a priority to receive any more, so it is essential to get it right.

There are a huge number of factors that the team has to deal with. All infrastructure has broken down, which means government processes have broken down, too; ports and airports are damaged, so we need to find other routes, and we need to be able to work with people on the ground to distribute once we are there. Experience has taught us that making informed decisions means we get the right aid to families sooner.


ebay effort to help our ShelterBox relief drive

Screen Shot 2017-09-08 at 9.55.37 PMSRC is in the midst of raising funds beyond our usual annual pledge for a special donation to ShelterBox to aid victims of domestic hurricane damage.

While we no doubt shortly will be called upon to help Floridians and Caribbean dwellers once we see what damage Hurricane Irma causes when it hits the mainland this weekend, right now we’re working to support ShelterBox’s “Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund.”

That special initiative will funnel 100% of special donations directly to the areas of Texas and Louisiana that remain inundated and just beginning then years-long process of rebuilding. SRC members already have donated $3,600, and we’ll be asking for additional individual pledges of $10, $20, $50, $100, $500 — or whatever you can afford — by next Thursday’s dinner meeting. Bill Dowd, our club’s ShelterBox liaison  officer, is coordinating that push, so please see him if you have questions about how to make out your checks.

Meanwhile, SRC member Phil Kellerman has offered to use his ebay business to help raise funds for emergency aid to ShelterBox. Here he explains that effort:

“For over 10 years, I have been a serious seller of mostly political and historical memorabilia on ebay.  As a result , I have raised funds for charities including the Oley Foundation at Albany Med via proceeds from the sales of donated material.

“I would like do the same for the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund our club is working to support.

“What am I looking for?  Almost anything that sells on ebay but in particular, historical and political memorabilia, antiques, rarer dolls, comics, jewelry, watches, unique records, older toys, movie posters, sports cards.

“For more information please contact me at philkellerman77@gmail.com or call 352-262-5421.”

ShelterBox’s role in Hurricane Harvey aftermath

The first wave of ShelterBox aid has arrived in Texas the form of blankets, groundsheets, school kits, and solar lamps, plus an initial provision of hundreds of tents.

These tents may be used as privacy tents in local shelters where large numbers of families are being housed in tightly-packed settings. That will allow for some semblance of privacy during medical treatment, childcare, and a host of other critical options.

ShelterBox poised to aid Texas hurricane victims

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A typical scene in storm-ravaged Houston.

A ShelterBox Response Team (SRT) has been activated to assess the need for emergency shelter in Houston and other nearby storm-impacted areas, including Louisiana, according to Sarah Robinson, director of fundraising and strategic partnerships for ShelterBox USA.

Bruce Heller, a Texas-based SRT member, said he is devastated to see so much of  Texas under water.

“As a Rotarian and a ShelterBox Response Team Member I am proud to be able to respond in my home state of Texas where so many are suffering as a result of this storm. As people of action, the best thing Rotarians can do to help in moments like these is to lend support to trusted partners, like ShelterBox, who are experienced in disaster response and who can make sure aid is being allocated appropriately, where need is greatest.”

Robinson said, “What our team is finding is that, given the level of flooding encountered, our soft-sided ShelterBox tents offer a more viable solution at this time than our ShelterKits or Standard Relief Tents, and they are being considered for a ‘shelter-in-shelter’ system we’ve previously used in similar situations, such as the tsunami in Japan.

“These tents within an evacuation center would offer families a private space to help preserve dignity, security, and aid in the recovery process, particularly where extended stays are likely.

“ShelterBox is staging these tents, along with school kits and blankets, in a Dallas warehouse as it communicates with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and state agencies to determine urgent shelter and aid needs in the hurricane-devastated region.”

ShelterBox USA has launched a designated fund in support: the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund. And, 100% of all donations received will support all associated deployment costs with the ShelterBox response to Harvey.

Should ShelterBox USA raise funds in excess of what’s needed to respond to this particular crisis, the funds will be allocated to its “Deployment Essentials’” fund that provides support for all costs associated with ShelterBox worldwide deployments, including but not limited to, lifesaving equipment, response teams, transportation and collaboration with local or international partners.

ShelterBox relies on donations to do the disaster relief work around the world and here in the U.S. Rotarian support will help ensure more aid for those in Texas who are most in need. For information on how to make tax-deductible donations most effectively, please contact Bill Dowd, Southern Rensselaer County Rotary’s liaison officer for ShelterBox.

ShelterBox ready to aid Hurricane Harvey area

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Hurricane Harvey swirls over east Texas and nearby areas.

When we hear about emergency efforts from ShelterBox, it usually involves foreign nations. However, sometimes the help is needed closer to home.

Here is a statement from the ShelterBox organization issued Friday as it was poised to render any aid needed as a result of Hurricane Harvey:

Wondering how to donate most effectively to ShelterBox? Check with
Bill Dowd, SRC’s ShelterBox Liaison Officer.

“Hurricane Harvey, now a Category 2 hurricane, is heading for the Texas coast and is expected to make landfall late today or early Saturday. Harvey, described as a life-threatening storm, has the potential to bring up to 20 inches of rainfall, storm surges up to four feet, and 100 mph winds in what could be the fiercest hurricane to hit the U.S. since Hurricane Wilma in 2005.

“The storm has the potential to cause catastrophic flooding that could result in structural damage to buildings and complete destruction to mobile homes.

“ShelterBox USA has been in continuous contact with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to discuss potential shelter options for displaced people and repair options for damaged homes, including the provision of ShelterBox Tents and ShelterKits, to help families displaced by flooding or storm surge.

“ShelterBox Operations will continue to monitor the storm and activate an immediate response if needed. The ShelterBox USA-based Response Team members, several of whom live in Texas, are standing by to assist in the delivery of aid to impacted areas.

“This week marks the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. That storm devastated communities all along the coasts of Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi with hurricane-force winds and a storm surge that sent walls of water several miles inland. It was estimated that 80% of New Orleans was completely flooded.

“Aid from ShelterBox was the first help to reach many survivors of the disaster. Response Team volunteers worked with local Rotarians, government officials and partner agencies to distribute tents to thousands of people who had seen their homes and possessions destroyed.”

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Scenes of ShelterBox relief efforts after Hurricane Katrina.

ShelterBox’s hometown part of grueling English relay fundraiser

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A portion of the 70-plus relay participants gather to begin handing off (at left) the “beer bottle baton.” (Photos from the Falmouth Packet, UK)

ShelterBox, now a renowned global disaster aid organization, began in 2000 as an idea with the Rotary Club of Helston, Cornwall, in the United Kingdom.

Today, it regularly serves thousands and thousands of people in dozens of countries who have been hit with earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, floods, hurricanes, avalanches, mudslides, cyclones, displacement because of warfare and terrorism, and other disasters.

To maintain the pace of aid requires money. Our own Southern Rensselaer County club is a “Silver Level Hero” award holder from ShelterBox USA (click here to see the award). Many individuals contribute to the cause, and many others around the world find ways to become involved in a variety of fundraisers that raise funds to support the organization. But, that doesn’t mean the folks in ShelterBox’s home area have relaxed and left the work to others elsewhere.

Recently, for example, a group of about 70 enthusiastic university students and others ran, swam, cycled, and kayaked around the Cornish coastline in the latest local effort, an epic 230-mile relay called “Rally 4 ShelterBox 2017.” It was a relay split into 23 grueling legs covered over a weekend — running swimming,  kayaking and cycling. For a touch of fun, the “baton” passed from leg to leg was a bottle of local beer.

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A relay runner “collapses” while swim relayers reach for the “beer bottle baton.”

Jake Dowling, FXU Geography Society president and event coordinator, called the effort “a weekend like no other, a chance to see amazing people pushed to their limits all for ShelterBox.”

The relay raised £3,000 (about $3,200 US) for ShelterBox. While the total was not an astounding amount, the event served to expand the public’s awareness of ShelterBox and its humanitarian work, something that no doubt will help raise even more funds in the future.

Natural and man-made disasters never stop, and ShelterBox has no plans to stop either.

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A lighthearted reenactment of passing of the “beer bottle baton.”


ShelterBox aid finally reaches Aleppo refugees

Syrian youngsters pick up blankets from ShelterBox aid points.

Thousands of youngsters in Aleppo, Syria, have reached relative safety and been given warm clothing after their families received aid from the ShelterBox disaster relief agency.

The tents, tools, blankets and other non-food relief supplies had been positioned for months outside the city as warfare raged between government and rebel forces as city dwellers tried to stay safe.

When the brief ceasefire began and thousands of beleaguered families were evacuated, facing snow and icy winds, they quickly were taken in by ShelterBox and other relief agencies.

ShelterBox perations coordinator Sam Hewett said, “The fighting in and around Aleppo that has been broadcast in recent weeks is indicative of the intolerable position that people throughout Syria are forced to endure.

“Due to the support of our generous donors, ShelterBox has been able to support people as they are evacuated from the city with items such as clothing and bedding, to shelter them from the cold winter conditions.

“This would not be possible without the presence of our partner organizations, whose staff share the same fatal risks as the people they are trying to help.”

A frigid scene in a ShelterBox tent encampment outside besieged Allepo.


Damian Lewis makes Mosul aid plea for ShelterBox

Damian Lewis

Damian Lewis, the English actor/producer familiar to American audiences for roles ranging from Henry VIII to a turncoat U.S. Marine, is lending his support to the ShelterBox international relief agency headquartered in his home country.

The star of “Homeland,” “Wolf Hall,” “Band of Brothers” and many other series and films has made a plea on behalf of the estimated one million people trapped in war-torn Mosul, Iraq. He has endorsed the efforts of ShelterBox as it prepares to help families displaced by the ongoing warfare there.

“They are the people who were not able to escape before Islamic State took hold,” Lewis said. “They are the very young, the very old and the families who were not able to leave due to illness and poverty. They have suffered atrocities we can only imagine. We cannot fail these families.”

The tents and shelter kits are in place, the distribution partnerships arranged, and aidRead More »

ShelterBox CEO talks about need to adapt


This Q&A interview is excerpted from an interview with ShelterBox CEO Chris Warham, an English Rotarian, conducted by Rotary Magazine managing editor Allan Berry. Among other topics, Warham explains the rise in the use of ShelterKits when standard ShelterBox aid is not suitable.

Rotary Magazine: ShelterBox income is based around disasters or tragedies of some sort or other, correct?

Chris Warham: A disaster at some point in the world creates a response from Rotarians to do something to help, and they react in any way possible to raise funds for ShelterBoxes to aid people who have been displaced from their homes. [But] If you give me £10 today for the disaster that happened this morning it’s very hard for me to spend that specific £10. I actually needed that £10 six weeks prior to it because we have lead times on equipment and we can’t hold 30,000 tents.

RM: How do you then overcome the peaks and troughs in funding?

CW: It’s the key strategic challenge we have and why we need consistent regular support. We know that on that worst day that Rotarians up and down Britain [and the world] will shake tins and they will do extraordinary work and for everything they do we thank them. Our income will increase rapidly and we have to organize ourselves so we can get that money spent and we can move on very quickly to respond to that disaster. Then, after a few weeks, that income comes down again and we have to find ways to increase the base level of the funding we are getting so we can absolutely rely on it. Read More »

A look at our newest award


ShelterBox USA has just honored the Southern Rensselaer County Rotary Club as a Silver Level Hero Club.

The award, which follows several other ShelterBox honors in the past few years, is in recognition of  our club’s financial support of the emergency relief organization, this time for its contribution of more than $3,000 in the 2015-16 Rotary Year.

Our club’s current budget includes another $3,000 contribution to the work of ShelterBox (we already have raised $2,600 toward that goal), and the club Board of Directors has approved a three-year pledge of $3,000 per year, which would maintain the Silver Hero Club status. The ShelterBox Hero program provides for three-year pledges at the $1,000 (bronze), $3,000 (silver), and $5,000 (gold) levels per year.

In addition to ongoing relief efforts in Haiti, Ecuador, Italy and elsewhere to battle the effects of natural disasters, ShelterBox also has been flooding the Mosul, Iraq, region with ShelterBoxes to help people fleeing from the fierce fighting in and around that city as government and allied forces fight to oust ISIS terrorists there. In the past two weeks, about 2,000 ShelterBoxes — at an expenditure of $2 million — have been sent there and are being out to use.