By Victoria Ifould, International Giving Officer, ShelterBox
ShelterBox is Rotary’s partner in disaster response
Thanks to the support of Rotary and Rotaract clubs around the world, ShelterBox has now supported more than 2 million people across 98 countries.
Together, we have provided 2 million people with emergency shelter aid, essential items and training to help recovery after disaster or conflict.
Phuleswari is one of the 2 million people supported by ShelterBox. When Cyclone Amphan hit India, it destroyed Phuleswari’s home and most of what she owned. The rains devastated the entire region, with floodwaters coming up to Phuleswari’s knees. The storm left the family with nothing.
As the floodwaters receded, Phuleswari and her children needed emergency shelter to survive in the aftermath of the storm. ShelterBox provided them with tarpaulins, ropes and tools, as well as essential household items.
“Everybody wants a beautiful home for themselves. A home is a place for shelter and support. Throughout the entire day no matter where we are, we all want to come back home. A place for shelter, where the entire family can safely stay together and live happily.”
The ShelterBox and Rotary partnership
ShelterBox began in 2000 as the millennium project of the Rotary Club of Helston-Lizard in the UK. They aimed to provide shelter support to 8-10 families a year.
Since then, ShelterBox has become an internationally recognised disaster relief charity. Due to the support of Rotary members and clubs around the world, in 2012 ShelterBox became Rotary’s Project partner in Disaster Relief.
It is thanks to Rotary that we have been able to grow into the global organisation we are today. We now have 15 international Affiliates, each of which were founded by Rotarians and Rotaractors and enable us to support those who have lost their home following conflict and disaster.
The partnership between Rotary International and ShelterBox has a meaningful impact globally. Rotary and Rotaract clubs around the world provide invaluable support to ShelterBox responses, from clubs that offer on the ground assistance to individual Rotary members who volunteer as ShelterBox Response Team members.
Throughout a response, Rotary members can help ShelterBox make community contacts, organize logistics, and support distributions. Rotary members can also take part in hands-on service in community assessments after a disaster, project implementation, or even monitoring and evaluation. Rotary members can also take action through the partnership by connecting their own community with disaster-affected communities worldwide.
“Our responses in Sri Lanka and Honduras are shining examples of the Rotary International and ShelterBox Project Partnership working together for the good of the community”. Alex Youlten, Rotary Partnership Manager, ShelterBox.
In May 2016, when Sri Lanka was hit by heavy flooding and devastating landslides, ShelterBox couldn’t have responded without the support of Rotary International and The Rotary Club of Capital City Sri Lanka. The Rotary Club of Capital City provided essential logistical support, by helping them find accommodation, transportation, translation and by liaising with the ministry of Disaster Management, the local military and authorities.
Rotarian Supem de Silva, who was ShelterBox’s main in-country Rotary contact, said:
“The local knowledge and contacts that Rotary has in the country will definitely help open doors and get things done for ShelterBox. For Rotary…[the partnership] help[s] elevate the social standing and acceptance of Rotary as a service organization. The synergies of working together will undoubtedly help both organizations to provide a more efficient and effective response in the aftermath of a disaster.”
Throughout the last year, our partnership with Rotary International has been more important than ever. As coronavirus travel restrictions stopped ShelterBox being able to deploy, Rotary and Rotaract Clubs around the world provided essential in-country support.
When Honduras was devastated by two consecutive hurricanes at the end of 2020, The Rotary Club of San Pedro Sula contacted ShelterBox to see how we could best work together to support those whose homes were destroyed by flooding and landslides. We partnered with the Rotary Club of San Pedro Sula, Habitat para la Humanidad Honduras and Habitat for Humanity International to support those who could return to their homes to clean up and repair their houses.
The Rotary Club of San Pedro Sula has played a vital role in the response, acting as consignee and taking on the large and complicated task of getting our aid into the country. They coordinated the arrival of eleven 40ft containers, provided and managed a warehouse for safe and secure storage and organized onward logistics. They also utilized their Rotary networks and coordinated other Rotary clubs around the department (district) to support Habitat for Humanity to select recipients, mobilize communities and to distribute aid.
‘Throughout the response, Rotary did amazing behind the scenes work. Without Rotary we would have struggled to get aid into the country.’ Celine Chhea, Operations Coordinator, ShelterBox
The Rotary Club of San Pedro Sula’s in-country knowledge and connections have been invaluable throughout the Honduras response, they have helped us to communicate with communities and understand their needs and establish what support was most appropriate.
Rotary has been instrumental in ShelterBox’s growth, helping to transform ShelterBox into an internationally recognised disaster relief charity. Rotary is truly in the DNA of everything that ShelterBox does.
Sanj Srikanthan, ShelterBox CEO said, ‘It is incredible to have supported 2,000,000 people since a group of Rotarians who understood ‘service to others’ formed ShelterBox 21 years ago. There is so much more that will be asked of us in the years to come. We will be reminded of our shared values time and time again and tested to live by them. We are incredibly proud of what we’ve accomplished together, and we are ready to stand with you to change the world for the better for families affected by disaster and conflict.’