Rotary and ShelterBox inspire young volunteers to take action

By James Bolton, Rotary in Great Britain and Ireland in collaboration with ShelterBox

Organizations such as Rotary and our project partners ShelterBox may have an adult profile, but the momentum is growing among a younger generation to create the next big humanitarian wave. ShelterBox had its origins in the Rotary movement 18 years ago, and now is Rotary’s project partner in disaster relief. Rotary members leave a lasting legacy on the lives of young people, with a number of programs and activities to support them in unlocking their potential. ShelterBox also provides young professionals an opportunity to make a lasting impact on communities.

‘Do it! I would encourage any young person to look further into this.’ That is the rallying cry from Katelyn Winkworth, a young Australian who trained as a ShelterBox Response Team Volunteer to help families caught up in war or natural disaster.

Katelyn shares her experience training to become a ShelterBox Response Team Volunteer

Katelyn was first introduced to Rotary when she took part in a Rotary Youth Leadership Awards, a professional development program, back in 2014. Subsequently she set up a Rotaract club in Brisbane with fellow young professionals. Rotaract is a vibrant and diverse part of the Rotary family for those ages 18-30, and much like Rotary clubs, delivers community and humanitarian service around the world.

Katelyn travels around Australia as a health promotion officer working with indigenous people. She goes into rural communities to help solve health issues and design programs to address those issues. Her enthusiasm for humanitarian work began with Rotary.

“My Rotaract club volunteered to help at a fundraiser for ShelterBox. When I learned about the work that Rotary and ShelterBox were doing together, I immediately wanted to become further involved. A Rotary mentor passed on the details of an Australian ShelterBox contact, and my journey began. Humanitarian work can be very specialized and it can feel hard to get involved, but Rotary and ShelterBox are well established with support all around the world. ShelterBox can go into nearly any country, and be assured that there are Rotary members there who will provide invaluable support for their humanitarian work. Both organizations are supportive and provide incredible training opportunities.”

I asked Katelyn if she feels that enough is being done to attract young people to these causes? “Bridging the gap between older members and younger members is important! It can be a good idea to support any young person that wishes to join the Rotary family, perhaps dedicating a Rotarian to make a special effort to welcome newcomers. It’s so important to engage young people.”

Yannis Commino, from Newcastle in Australia, is one of ten interns that ShelterBox offered training to in 2018. He says, “I was presented with the opportunity of a lifetime. During my New Generations Service Exchange at the headquarters of ShelterBox International in Truro, Cornwall, I gained priceless insight and first-hand experience in disaster relief management.

As I walked through the doors of ShelterBox headquarters, I was greeted by a youthful, vibrant, and enthusiastic team. I was impressed by their morning meetings, as they sit in front of four large television screens analyzing the current deployments and tracking global news of the day. I truly believe this was the beginning of a lifetime of experiences.”

New Generations Service Exchange is a Rotary short-term program for young university students or young professionals up to age 30, who are interested in humanitarian work. All these young people, and thousands more like them, are discovering that working or volunteering in the humanitarian sector is exciting and fulfilling.

As Yannis says, “This kind of work will enable me to merge my two passions: helping others and exploring new destinations and cultures.”

This story was originally featured by Rotary Great Britain and Ireland (Rotary GBI). Read more here.

Read about Yannis’s New Generations Service Exchange experience at ShelterBox’s headquarters


Find information about the RI-ShelterBox project partnership on the RI-ShelterBox Fact Sheet. Contact for information about getting involved.

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