Partnering with ShelterBox on relief deployments

Rotarian Liz Odell of the Rotary Club of Nailsworth in England shares about her involvement with ShelterBox over the past seven years. Liz has participated in 16 deployments with ShelterBox as a response team volunteer. Here’s her story:

Video courtesy of Rotary International in Great Britain and Ireland

Interested in getting involved with ShelterBox, Rotary’s partner for disaster relief? Read the Rotary-ShelterBox partnership fact sheet and contact for more information.

ShelterBox is a separate organization, independent of Rotary International and The Rotary Foundation.



Peace Corps Volunteers changed my world view  

By District Governor-elect Abbas Rajabi, District 5450 USA

Peace Corps sends U.S. volunteers, usually recent university graduates, to live and work abroad for two years. Their goal is to help host countries meet local needs and promote mutual cultural understanding. While abroad, volunteers learn the local language and work with professionals in education, health, community economic development, environment, youth in development, and agriculture.

My first encounter with Peace Corps was in high school in the mid-1960s. A number of Peace Corp Volunteers (PCVs) from the United States came to my hometown of Hamadan in Iran to serve as teachers at our local high schools. Their impact and their message of peace was profound. It was so inspiring seeing a number of young people working together to teach English, to serve selflessly and appreciate our culture throughout the city. More than that, seeing the cultural differences was eye opening to all of us young Iranians.

It is clear now that those Peace Corps Volunteers who served in Iran know the country better than perhaps anyone else who may have just passed through. Those of us who had the opportunity to learn from these teachers arguably understand the United States better than our fellow Iranians, and we have come to be the catalyst for peace and goodwill  between Iranians and Americans. This cultural exchange helped us learn about one another while promoting peace and goodwill.

Between 1962 and 1976, more than 1500 Peace Corps Volunteers served in Iran. Many of them forged lifelong friendships with Iranians and returned to the United States with a cultural understanding of Iran. The cultural impact and friendships between Iranians and Americans are far better and deeper than most people will ever realize.

I have very deep connections to my birthplace of Iran, but now I live in the United States. I have come to love my new country and Peace Corps first shaped my view of the United States and the people who live here.

Recently, I sought to reconnect with my Peace Corps teacher, Mr. Don Laffoon. After many attempts of calling and writing to a number of Peace Corps Volunteers, I finally found my old teacher in California. I called the phone number I had found and Mr. Laffoon picked up the phone; for moments, I felt nostalgic and emotional to hear a voice so familiar after nearly 50 years.

“Hello… who is this,” Mr. Lafffoon said. I responded: “This is Abbas Rajabi, I was your student in Hamadan and I wish to tell you I am grateful for all you taught me.”

He was excited to hear from me and we reminisced about that time, other classmates and teachers, and the city of Hamadan. We talked for a while and promised to be in touch. It was so satisfying for me to be able to thank Mr. Lafffoon and tell him the positive  impact he made on my life.

Through a formalized service partnership, Rotary International and Peace Corps are working together to help enhance club and district service activities locally and around the world. I hope to further the partnership by helping connect Rotarians with local Peace Corps Volunteers living and working in their communities, and by helping U.S. clubs connect with Returned Peace Corps Volunteers. Every Rotary district, all Peace Corps Volunteers around the world, and most importantly the people we serve through our community and international service projects can greatly benefit from this partnership.

We want to hear from Rotarians with experience working with Peace Corps! Have you served as Peace Corps Volunteers or worked with Peace Corps in other capacities? Please complete this survey by 28 February. The survey should take no more than ten minutes to complete and all responses are confidential. Email if you have any questions.


  • Read the Rotary-Peace Corps partnership fact sheet for collaboration opportunities for clubs and districts.
  • If you’re attending the 2017 Rotary Convention in Atlanta, visit the Peace Corps booth in the House of Friendship and attend a Rotary-Peace Corps breakout session to learn more about the partnership.
  • Rotarian Returned Peace Corps Volunteers are invited to District 5450’s Rotary-Peace Corps workshop on 4 August 2017 in Denver, Colorado, USA. Contact Charlie Hunt or Steve Werner for more information and to register for the workshop.

Serving with ShelterBox in times of disaster

By Ellina Kushnir, Service and Engagement Supervisor

When disaster strikes, Rotary’s project partner ShelterBox often works closely with Rotarians to evaluate local needs and devise a plan for immediate response. The Rotary family provides vital assistance to ShelterBox by assisting response teams with disaster assessments, housing response team volunteers, helping coordinate relief logistics, and sponsoring aid. Over the past fourteen years, Rotarians, Rotaractors, and Interactors have partnered with ShelterBox to help communities in dire need of assistance immediately following a disaster. Here are just a few recent examples of how Rotary members and ShelterBox have been working together:

  • Immediately following Ecuador’s devastating earthquake in April 2016, Rotarians from District 4400 met the ShelterBox Response Team at the airport and jointly attended response coordination meetings. ShelterBox supplied ShelterKits and water filters to the most vulnerable families. Over the past months, repeated after-shocks have continued to destroy more homes in the impact region. Having identified further families in need of temporary housing, ShelterBox is sending more ShelterKits, water filters and mosquito nets to Ecuador. ShelterBox response team volunteer, Liz Odell, past president of the Rotary Club of Nailsworth in England, headed to Ecuador in early October as part of the team overseeing the distribution.
  • Following the May 2016 devastating flooding and landslides in Sri Lanka, ShelterBox and Rotarians responded as families were stripped of their homes, livelihoods, and loved ones. Members of the Rotary Club of Capital City spent five days using boats and kayaks to rescue people marooned by flooding. The teamwork, trust and cooperation between the club and the ShelterBox response teams led to the provision of temporary camps for individuals who had lost everything.
  • Alongside ongoing relief responses in Syria, Cameroon and Niger due to conflict, ShelterBox has been working with families in Iraq who have been displaced (some on multiple occasions) fleeing for safety from conflict in Syria and Iraq.  ShelterBox is now preparing to respond to the anticipated retaking of Mosul from so-called Islamic State control, which is predicted to be one of the worst humanitarian crises in years and may result in an additional one million displaced people. Through the project partnership with ShelterBox, the Rotary family is able to reach families living in some of the most treacherous conditions. An update from ShelterBox response team volunteer Rachel Harvey, former foreign correspondent at the BBC, is available online. More information about assisting this initiative is available on
  • ShelterBox currently has an assessment team evaluating the impact of Hurricane Matthew in Haiti. Hurricane Matthew, the most powerful Caribbean hurricane in nearly a decade, hit Haiti on 4 October, bringing 145mph winds, heavy rain and dangerous storm surges.  Marie Alta Jean-Baptiste, director of the country’s Civil Protection Agency, has said: “It’s much too early to know how bad things are but we do know there are a lot of houses that have been destroyed or damaged in the south.” Up-to-date information about ShelterBox’s response to Hurricane Matthew is available at

For information about the RI-ShelterBox project partnership on the RI-ShelterBox Fact Sheet. Contact for information about getting involved or write to Rotary staff with questions about the partnership.

Rotary and ShelterBox are project partners for international disaster response. ShelterBox is a Charity independent of Rotary International and The Rotary Foundation.



Supporting communities, from homes to homework

By ShelterBox staff

ShelterBox specialises in delivering the essentials people need in rebuilding their lives in the aftermath of a disaster. This usually means providing emergency shelter, such as sturdy tents, or the tools to repair damaged homes, but sometimes devastation spreads much further than homes, disrupting vital services like schools and education.

ShelterBox’s range of aid also includes SchoolBoxes with essential supplies for teachers as well as school equipment for 50 children. Simple but very effective, a tin of blackboard paint and boxes of chalk can be used to transform any flat surface into a focus for learning. And the solar and wind-up powered radios included in every box mean that teachers can broadcast educational lessons wherever there is reception.

schoolboxThe SchoolBoxes also include activity packs containing materials such as notebooks, coloured pencils and other stationery that not only enable children to continue their studies, but give them the opportunity to play and express themselves too. These activity packs come in distinctive yellow school bags which children can take home with them, meaning that although they may have lost many of their belongings due to disaster, they have something of their own to keep and look after. Their pride in these possessions, so ordinary to our own children, brings a sense of joy amid the hardship.

Following the earthquakes that shook Nepal last year, ShelterBox teamed up with the Rotary Club of Bhadgaon, based in the Kathmandu Valley, to distribute SchoolBoxes to several local orphanages damaged by the tremors. The club, which was started just last year, now helps support more than 200 orphanages in the area, a task that has become even more urgent since the earthquakes.

In a different region of Kathmandu, a ShelterBox response team helped source and deliver SchoolBoxes containing enough school materials for 450 children while the partnering Rotary club brought in psychiatrists to help children who had been traumatised by the earthquake and ongoing aftershocks.

ShelterBox response team member Jimmy Griffiths said: “It was great to see our SchoolBoxes in action and to peek in on how the children are enjoying a little bit of a distraction from their very difficult experiences.”

At the height of West Africa’s Ebola crisis, SchoolBoxes were flown by Royal Navy helicopter to an orphanage near Sierra Leone.

SchoolBoxes have also been deployed to Zimbabwe for children displaced by the country’s worst flooding in forty years. Canadian response volunteer Richard Loat said, “Their children have been uprooted to a location that was barren of homes, schools, or anything resembling a community. They are building new relationships, villages, and a new society from scratch. At the core of this has been the opening of three primary schools and one secondary school, to ensure that Zimbabwe’s generations of tomorrow are not short-changed of an education and a future.”

The head teacher of Nyuni Secondary School best captured the impact, saying “ShelterBox’s tents provide comfort for the children at home, which allows them to come to school in the right mood to learn. ShelterBox’s school supplies give them something to call their own, which motivates them to learn as we all get through this difficult time.”

ShelterBox has also been distributing SchoolBoxes at the heart of the world’s greatest humanitarian crisis in Syria. Save the Children reported that Syria once had 100% school enrolment, but now has nearly 3 million children out of school, almost the worst attendance rate in the world. Half of refugee families rely partly or entirely on income from sending their school-age children to work; the youth “a generation lost to education”. In partnership with Hand in Hand for Syria, many children living in Syrian refugee and displacement camps near the Turkish border now have educational supplies. Schoolbag sets were even delivered right into war-torn Aleppo city. By including SchoolBoxes, along with essential items such as hardwearing tents, winter clothing and blankets, ShelterBox is helping a generation of children continue their education and create a sense of normality.

The ShelterBox-RI Fact Sheet provides more information about local or international service opportunities with ShelterBox. Contact ShelterBox to start working together.


Peace Corps partnership seeks to enhance project capacity

Rotary PeaceCorps_lockup




By Ellina Kushnir, RI Staff and Scott Kumis, Peace Corps Partnership Manager

Last year, Rotary International and Peace Corps, formalized a service partnership to help enhance our club and district service activities locally and around the world.

Peace Corps sends U.S. citizens abroad to help tackle the most pressing needs around the world while promoting better international understanding of culture and enhancing global awareness. Peace Corps Volunteers live and work alongside the people they support for a period of two or more years and concentrate efforts to create sustainable change that lives on long after their period of in-country service. Peace Corps currently has volunteers in more than 60 countries and concentrates on the following sectors: education, health, community economic development, environment, youth in development, and agriculture.

By working together with active and returned Peace Corps Volunteers, we can continue addressing Rotary’s six areas of focus while enhancing goodwill, international understanding, and building capacity to address the most pressing community concerns.

Local collaborations for sustainable development around the world

A Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV) offers access to local contacts, project planning and development insights, and funding possibilities within a particular community. Involving a PCV in your project can help increase its reach, impact, and sustainability.

Peace Corps Volunteers work with nongovernmental organizations, host-country governments, and local community members to identify and address local needs. PCVs can help you identify prospective beneficiaries and work with you to find the most effective way to address a community’s needs: they can partner on a community assessment, help involve local residents, mobilize community members to oversee project implementation, assist with training, and help incorporate sustainability components so that a project thrives under the care of the local community.

Visit Peace Corps’ website for a list of countries where Peace Corps works.

Working with Returned Peace Corps Volunteers in the United States

Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs), those who have completed their in-country service and are back in the U.S., offer a wealth of service project knowledge, interesting community insights from living abroad, and often maintain strong relationships with their host communities and local partners which can include Rotary and Rotaract clubs. These links can lead to international Rotary partnerships that provide resources for projects in the host country.

If you’re located in the U.S., consider:

  • Contacting a Peace Corps Regional Recruitment Office to connect with the local RPCV alumni network in your region
  • Inviting a returned volunteer to attend your club meeting or a Rotary event.
  • Inviting a returned volunteer to make a presentation about his or her work abroad and, if applicable, about how he or she worked with local Rotary or Rotaract clubs.
  • Asking a returned volunteer to facilitate an introduction to the Rotary or Rotaract clubs with which he or she worked while abroad.
  • Inviting a returned volunteer to use his or her community development expertise to assist your club with its projects.

Read the RI-Peace Corps partnership factsheet or contact with questions.

Peace Corps is celebrating their 55th Anniversary this year. Add your support to their work to improve communities by joining their Thunderclap on March 1. If your club or district has worked with an active or returned Peace Corps Volunteer, share your story using the commenting feature below.


Find international service partners in Ecuador

By Amparo Albuja, District 4400 XI Project Fair Committee Chair

International visitors learn about local club projects at the X Ecuador Project Fair

Every year, District 4400’s local clubs showcase their service projects to Rotarian visitors at the Ecuador Project Fair. These events help foster international partnerships to collaboratively address community concerns through Rotarian-led projects.

Last year’s Fair helped us strengthen existing international relationships while building new partnership in service. The event brought attention to the rising importance of organic agriculture in Ecuador. One of our most popular projects proposed the creation of an agro-ecological demonstration farm to train local farmers on new approaches to farming. Another related project proposed the creation of an auto-sustainable community based on the production of organic fertilizers. Both projects quickly found needed support from our U.S. Rotarian visitors.

Small clubs without global grant experience also have options to obtain international support. Last year, a project providing water treatment plants to eight poor communities, each to be carried out by a different club, found support from our international visitors. Replicating this model, a similar project targeting six communities will be presented at the 2015 Fair.

A group of international visitors exploring Quito during the X Ecuador Project Fair

Project fairs offer unique opportunities to develop international service partnerships within the Rotary family. Visitors personally meet the local Rotarian project sponsors and establish international service partnerships. These partnerships often evolve into long lasting friendships. Visitors also experience our beautiful country and culture and have options to embark on affordable excursions.

This year, the XI District 4400 Ecuador Project Fair will be hosted at the Swissotel in the beautiful city of Quito from Friday, November 13 through Sunday, November 15. View the full program and register online.