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20 Years of ShelterBox, 20 Years of Partnership

by Tess Widdifield June 30, 2020

As a Rotarian and the Acting Executive Director of ShelterBox Canada, I am proud of the strong partnership and connection ShelterBox has with the Rotary Community.

From the founding members in Helston-Lizard, to our partnership with Rotary International, to the individual Rotarians who passionately support us both personally and through their clubs – the passion, trust, and dedication from Rotarians all around the world, is an important part of ShelterBox’s past, and our future.

 

In 2000, the idea for ShelterBox was thought up by the Rotary Club of Helston-Lizard in Cornwall, United Kingdom, when Rotary encouraged members to come up with projects to mark the Millennium. The Helston-Lizard club was an established group of around 40 people, who had been involved in a variety of charitable activities, both at home and abroad. The idea was sparked by watching the news and wanting to do more after seeing that people seemed to be left with nothing after disaster.

ShelterBox was launched by the club with the initial hope to help 8 to 10 families a year, with each box containing a family-sized tent, sleeping bags, water purifying tablets, trenching tools, and pots and pans.

In the first year, this group of passionate volunteers took the idea and developed it into something more. They investigated the emergency items people need and worked to understand transport and logistics. They spoke to manufacturers and found a sturdy box. They visited the Rotary International Conference to drum up support and float the idea more widely.

In the first year, Rotary Clubs alone donated $150,000. The faith shown by the Rotary community led to the first-ever response supporting families affected by the 2001 earthquake in Gujarat, India.

As ShelterBox grew, so did Rotary’s support. In 2012 ShelterBox became recognized as Rotary International’s official project partner in disaster relief.

 

Rotarians and Rotary groups all over the world help ShelterBox in a variety of ways.

Rotarians are able to give us first-hand knowledge of many of the countries in which we respond and vital links into communities.

Around 1,000 Rotary members are involved in ShelterBox as volunteers, staff or response team members. Clubs worldwide offer valuable, practical assistance to help ShelterBox reach more families

Rotary also provides us with immense support here in Canada by tirelessly raising funds and awareness to help more families after disaster. ShelterBox has fundraising teams in 15 countries around the world – all were founded by Rotary members. Today, Rotary remains at the heart of ShelterBox.

Since our beginning as a Rotary Club project in 2000, ShelterBox has grown to become a respected humanitarian organization providing emergency shelter, essential items, and support to over 1.5 million people in 97 countries.

We have continued to evolve and innovate over the past 20 years, but one thing that has never changed is that everything we do is guided by the same goal: helping families rebuild after disaster.

 

To make sure we do that as effectively as possible, we constantly question what we do. We explore what we could do differently. We ask ourselves how we could be better. We put innovation at the heart of our work, always searching for ways to improve.

It’s why we no longer provide aid only in boxes, after families told us they sometimes need larger emergency items that don’t fit in our ShelterBoxes.

It’s why we changed the blankets we send to disaster zones, after families told us the original ones weren’t warm enough on the coldest nights.

It’s why we started using more durable tents, after families said they needed somewhere more secure to feel settled and ready to face the future.

It’s why we worked with the company that makes our solar-powered lights, after families told us the batteries used to run out too quickly.

Recovery starts with shelter. Shelter means a place to feel safe, often after days or weeks of fear. It means having somewhere to call home again, where you can find shade from the midday sun and warmth when winter comes. It means having somewhere to be with friends and family, and to have time to yourself. It’s a place to cook, to play, to study, to laugh. It’s a place to start again.

Today in 2020, the need for emergency shelter is more urgent than ever, with more than 88 million people living without shelter after disaster or in times of conflict. We must do more. And thanks to the support of people like you and Rotarians around the world, we are as determined as our founding Helston-Lizard Rotary members to do just that.

Thank you for being a part of the family.

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