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.



Reflections from the field: intensive disaster relief courses inspire service

By Luke Addison, member of the Rotaract Club of University of Winchester, England and Rotaract Multi-District Contact for RIBI

I first heard about ShelterBox in 2013. I had just become the President of the University of Winchester Rotaract Club and was working with several friends to get the group involved in local and international projects. We were, and are still to this day, very lucky to have the support of the Winchester Rotary Club in all that we do. Their club allowed our members to engage with their projects and therefore create some great connections. There was a particular Rotarian who had spoken with me about ShelterBox and the work they did and suggested we raise funds for them. In just a few days we were at Winchester University at 7:00 AM putting up a ShelterBox tent and then standing alongside it for several hours.

In the past few years since working closer with Rotaract and Rotary on an international level, as well as being involved in many diverse projects and with many organisations across the globe, my interests and drive for what I want to achieve sit very much in the humanitarian sector.

One morning I received an email inviting me to the three-day Understanding ShelterBox Operations course, and there was no way I could turn this down. I replied without hesitation and several weeks later, found myself packing a bag and booking a ten-hour coach journey to Truro! After arriving at the ShelterBox Headquarters, I was extremely early and one of the team members must have taken pity on me and invited me in from the cold. The course didn’t begin until noon, but I was met by Alex Youlten and several other staff who offered to show me around and gave me a great introduction to ShelterBox. Along the tour, we were invited into an actual operations meeting which was taking place in a board room and involved the whole team looking at where ShelterBoxes and other ShelterBox aid were currently being deployed, and also talking much about international affairs of the world… I was hooked and I hadn’t even started the course yet!

After meeting the rest of the course participants, we boarded a minibus and headed towards the training camp. We opened with a briefing about the organisation and then went straight into setting up three tents outside. These would be our accommodations for the next few nights!

The three days of the course were a fascinating combination of problem-solving activities, treks, team-building games and even critical thinking within a classroom. The last part surprised me because although I was expecting to hear more about what they did, I hadn’t fully appreciated exactly what it is they do. By this I mean, we looked deeply into human psychology and how people react in a disaster while also looking at ethical and moral dilemmas and the level of strength and compassion needed to operate effectively.

We even learnt how the organisation’s fundraising department worked and had a great presentation from Richard Lee, Director of Fundraising and Communications. Again, it was a side I was not expecting to see, but was so clearly effective as it had everyone in the room suggesting ways to help.

ShelterBox and Rotary share the same humanitarian aims, and have been linked by common goals and ethics for more than sixteen years now. The two organisations have formed a durable international project partnership which grows in scale and sophistication with every year. It is quite unique in international aid. Obviously this includes Rotaractors too, whose youthful energy, compassion and local knowledge are harnessed in so many ShelterBox deployments and disaster responses.

We were treated with so much respect and I felt so valued as an “outsider”; I’m grateful to have been invited to this course but given so much whilst on it. I could feel my place within ShelterBox already forming!  I have never met a single other charity that would invite you to their headquarters, show you around everything, let you sit in a real operations meeting, then take you to the training ground and give you three days of training on what they actually do. It was genuinely one of the most amazing experiences I’ve ever had and I would absolutely encourage everyone to go and take part in the course and learn about the many ways your club can work with ShelterBox.

I am so grateful and look forward to working with ShelterBox again!



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.


Serving with ShelterBox in times of disaster

By Ellina Kushnir, RI Programs staff

Picture1When disaster strikes, our 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 Response Teams by helping with disaster assessments, housing response team volunteers, and helping coordinate relief logistics. Over the past twelve years, Rotarians, Rotaractors, and Interactors have partnered with ShelterBox to help communities in dire need of assistance immediately following a disaster:

  • When the April 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Nepal, Rotaractors and Rotarians quickly connected with ShelterBox to assess damage and mobilize emergency relief teams. The Rotary family in Nepal and around the world has been instrumental in helping ShelterBox with logistics, transportation, housing Response Teams, and sponsoring emergency shelter tents and relief kits.
  • In December 2014, Malaysia was devastated by heavy flooding. A response team was deployed to the country after Rotaractor James Ong, a member of ShelterBox Malaysia, contacted ShelterBox for assistance. James was instrumental in arranging response logistics from greeting response team members at the airport to arranging transportation for the teams’ operations. James helped translate and interpret key information from Malay to English and assisted with box distributions in Pahang State. James and fellow Rotaractors worked with PDG Khoo Boo Khean to mobilize a District 3300-wide response coalition of Rotarians and Rotaractors to assist with the month-long deployment.
  • Last May, following flooding and landslides in Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, ShelterBox Response Teams, alongside Rotarians and local agencies, provided vital aid to the most vulnerable communities in both countries.
  • In November 2013, the largest storm to make landfall struck the Philippines. Because local Rotary clubs members were able to quickly assess destruction severity, ShelterBox deployed a response team with relief equipment within 48 hours of the disaster. Rotarian Stephen Castillo from Cebu City, Philippines, helped ShelterBox with warehouse and logistics during the deployment.
Children in Syria use ShelterBox's SchoolBoxes to continue learning during relief efforts (courtesy of ShelterBox)
Children in Syria use ShelterBox’s SchoolBoxes to continue learning during relief efforts (courtesy of ShelterBox)

In addition to distributing transitional housing resources, ShelterBox also provides SchoolBoxes with educational materials to mitigate disruption in education as teachers continue working with students while communities are rebuilt. ShelterBox works with a variety of implementing partners and fellow relief organizations to ensure necessary aid including medical care, food assistance, and permanent housing is included in recovery initiatives:

  • Since conflict first broke out in Syria four years ago, more than 10 million people have been displaced with four million seeking refuge in other countries. ShelterBox is working with implementing partners including Hand in Hand for Syria to distribute needed aid, including shelter kits, tents, mosquito nets, water filters, water carriers, blankets, groundsheets, SchoolBoxes, and solar lamps.

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

Bill Decker, a Rotary club past president and ShelterBox Response Team member, with children in the Philippines (image courtesy of Bill Decker).
Bill Decker, a Rotary club past president and ShelterBox Response Team member, with children in the Philippines (image courtesy of Bill Decker).










Relief and recovery efforts in Nepal

By Gary C.K. Huang, 2014-15 Rotary International President

Devastation in Kathmandu, Nepal’s capital captured by Rotaractor Ashish Chaulagain. Photo courtesy of ShelterBox
Devastation in Kathmandu, Nepal’s capital captured by Rotaractor Ashish Chaulagain. Photo courtesy of ShelterBox

Joined by Rotary members worldwide, we express our profound sadness and extend our sympathies to all those impacted by the devastation resulting from the 25 April deadly earthquake in Nepal. Rescue missions and emergency aid continue to arrive in Nepal as 8 million people have been impacted by the massive 7.8 magnitude quake.

As we mourn the thousands of lost lives, Rotary joins many international agencies in providing immediate relief to survivors and mobilizing our expertise to support long-term recovery and rebuilding efforts throughout the country.

Thank you to everyone who has expressed their concerns and desires to assist the devastated communities in Nepal:

  • District 3292, Nepal, has established a disaster relief fund to provide needed equipment and supplies to impacted communities. Contact District Governor Kumar Piya for information about contributing to the fund.
  • ShelterBox response team member Nicola Hinds with Geeta Shrestha, Nursing Director at one of the Kathmandu hopsitals that have received ShelterBox tents. Photo courtesy of Phil Duloy/ShelterBox.
    ShelterBox response team member Nicola Hinds with Geeta Shrestha, Nursing Director at one of the Kathmandu hopsitals that have received ShelterBox tents. Photo courtesy of Phil Duloy/ShelterBox.

    Rotary’s service partner ShelterBox is working closely with Nepali Rotary members to coordinate immediate relief efforts. On Monday, 27 April, and Wednesday, 29 April, Rotarians greeted ShelterBox response teams in Nepal who will mobilize temporary housing and relief efforts in impacted communities. Two more relief teams will arrive in Nepal this weekend. Working with local authorities, an initial 500 housing tents and 500 shelter kits will be distributed throughout impacted communities. An estimated additional 2,500 kits, tents, water purification kits and solar lamps may be deployed once further assessments are complete. Learn more about supporting ShelterBox’s relief efforts.

  • As with all disasters, the Rotary family may apply for global grants to support long-term recovery efforts in Nepal. Once immediate health, safety, and relief efforts have been addressed, work with local Nepali Rotary members and their international partners to develop projects within Rotary’s six areas of focus.

Monitor the announcements section of My Rotary for more information as it becomes available and do not hesitate to contact with any questions.

Our thoughts are with our Nepali neighbors during this difficult time. Thank you for continuing to Light Up Rotary through your compassion and generosity.


Using social media to boost fundraising efforts

By Simone Collins, Rotary Club of Freshwater Bay, Western Australia, and Charter Chair of the Rotarians on Social Networks Fellowship

Social media is no longer a new technology – the first social media sites launched in 2000, and a number of those original sites are still around. Facebook was launched in 2004, LinkedIn in 2003, and Twitter has been around since 2006. Social media is now as vital a communication tool as a cell phone.

The power of social media is in the sheer number of users who contribute and consume information daily through these networks. Facebook currently boasts 1.3 billion active users, most of which log in daily. *Half of 18 to 34-year-olds check Facebook first thing in the morning, and 28% of those do so before even getting out of bed!

Rapid Response

Murphys Creek, Queensland, Australia. Photo courtesy of Rotary District 9830
Murphys Creek, Queensland, Australia. Photo courtesy of Rotary District 9830

In January 2011, we had terrible flooding which affected most of the state of Queensland in Australia. Rotaractors tweeted and used their Facebook statuses to spread news that any donations made through Rotary District 9830, in the state of Tasmania, would be matched dollar for dollar through the local state government, up to a maximum of $250,000. I saw the buzz on Facebook and helped spread the news through my own accounts, including my business Twitter accounts and through the Rotary Facebook pages that I administer. I shared this announcement at my Wednesday club meeting that week, along with news that ShelterBox already had personnel on the ground assessing impacted communities, information I had learned by following ShelterBox Australia’s Facebook page. While at a district function that Friday evening, I heard a fellow club member repeat the same information to a Rotarian in another club, who asked how I had heard the news so quickly.

With the help of the Rotary family and beyond, District 9830 raised AUS$911,000, double the combined total raised by three other service clubs in Tasmania. That speaks volumes about the benefit of using social media to rapidly spread information about how to help at a time when people are eager to lend a hand. Raised funds were used to build a replacement community centre at Murphys Creek in the Lockyer Valley.

Fundraising Events

Swimerathon 2014. Photo courtesy of Balasubramaniam Sokalimgam
Swimerathon 2014. Photo courtesy of Balasubramaniam Sokalimgam

The Rotary Global Swimarathon, coordinated by the Rotary Club of Grantham, UK, is another online fundraising success story. On 23 February 2012, as a result of reaching out to clubs via Facebook and Twitter, along with regular promotion, we saw 5,244 swimmers from 104 clubs in 23 countries set a new world record for the most number of simultaneous swimmers, raising over US$100,000 for polio eradication in the process.

Again, the organizers used multiple channels to engage the community: Rotarian Paul Wilson from the sponsoring club made heavy use of his personal Facebook account to reach out to Rotarians and clubs. He also used his club’s Facebook and Twitter accounts, along with a website and blog, dedicated to the Swimarathon to provide regular updates and communications with stakeholders. It has now become an annual event, with more and more clubs coming on board every year. In 2013, participation rose to 6103 swimmers from 186 clubs in 36 countries, with a total of US$111,081 raised funds. This year a total of $116,700 were raised with the support of 210 clubs.

As easy as it is to reach out via social media, it is important to strike a balance between getting your message out to as many people as possible and spamming them with too many updates . People will tune you out if you are too aggressive with your promotions. Instead, take time to build engaging relationships within your channels first.

If you would like assistance using social media to boost your fundraising activities, please don’t hesitate to contact the Rotarians on Social Networks Fellowship. With over 2,000 members across the globe, there are plenty of volunteers happy to assist with ideas and practical support on how to make use of the various channels available to you.


ShelterBox and Rotary work together to assist flood-hit communities in the Balkans

By Melissa Martins Casagrande, ShelterBox staff, and Ellina Kushnir, Rotary Programs staff

Following May flooding and landslides in Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, one of the Balkan region’s worst natural disasters in recent decades, ShelterBox response teams, with the support of Rotary club members, local fire departments and government agencies, have been providing vital aid to the most vulnerable in communities in both countries.

In addition to sending response teams, ShelterBox supplied mosquito nets to Bosnia where disease was spreading due to high water levels, mosquitoes, and heat. Nine Serbian municipalities most impacted by the disaster have received tents, water filters and carriers, mosquito nets, solar lamps, groundsheets and blankets.

Watch ShelterBox response team member Giles Walker’s video below as he provides a glimpse into local relief operations and talks with Rotary members who have been invaluable to ShelterBox’s disaster relief work in the region.

“Thank you” from ShelterBox

By Melissa Martins Casagrande, ShelterBox International Partnerships Manager

It has been another busy twelve months for us at ShelterBox. Thanks to generous donations and assistance of supporters worldwide, we have been able to send aid to help displaced families in nearly 20 different countries, responding to 30 disasters such as typhoons, cyclones, hurricanes, fires, flooding, earthquakes and conflict. Together we have helped bring shelter and other vital aid to nearly 13,000 families this year.

One of our biggest challenges in 2013 was ShelterBox’s response to the Syrian Refugee Crisis. Rotarians have supported ShelterBox Response Teams with logistics, transportation, translation, identification of local implementing partners and ensuring the impartial distribution of aid.

Another highlight of our ShelterBox-Rotary partnership was the joint work of ShelterBox and Rotarians in China bringing aid into the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) to help vulnerable communities displaced by Typhoon Bolaven.

Rotarians also worked with ShelterBox to assess needs and distribute aid in the aftermath of various disasters — from fires in Australia to floods in Uganda to the devastating tornado that hit Oklahoma, USA.

ShelterBox responded to four disasters in the Philippines working alongside Rotarians in each occasion to help families affected by Typhoon Bopha in Mindanao, set up an evacuation camp after conflict erupted in Zamboanga City, respond to the 7.2 magnitude earthquake that hit Bohol, and help families affected by Typhoon Haiyan. Rotarians around the world mobilised to support the response in the Philippines by volunteering as response team members and raising funds.

We would like to express our gratitude to Rotarians around the world for their continued and generous support, especially to our Typhoon Haiyan Emergency Appeal and our on-going Syria Refugee Appeal.


Read the Rotary-ShelterBox Fact Sheet for more information about our project partnership.