ShelterBox founder visits HudsonTom Henderson, founder of ShelterBox, spoke at meetings last week of both the Hudson Thursday Noon and Hudson Daybreak Rotary clubs. Henderson, a member of the Rotary Club of Helston-Lizard, Cornwall District, in Great Britain designed the ShelterBox concept.
By: Doug Stohlberg, Hudson Star-Observer
Tom Henderson, founder of ShelterBox, spoke at meetings last week of both the Hudson Thursday Noon and Hudson Daybreak Rotary clubs. Henderson, a member of the Rotary Club of Helston-Lizard, Cornwall District, in Great Britain designed the ShelterBox concept.
ShelterBox is a self-contained emergency unit that contains a 10-person tent and ancillary equipment designed to enable a family of up to 10 people to survive for at least six months.
The units are shipped to areas where both natural and man-made disasters occur. Since its development in 2001, ShelterBoxes have been distributed to provide shelter to approximately 800,000 people in 57 countries who were victims of earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, tsunamis, wars, volcanoes and more.
Currently the program is being used in Italy after recent earthquakes.
“The program works so well because of Rotary connections throughout the world,” Henderson told members of the Thursday Noon Club. “Rotary is the cement that binds it all together. We essentially have 33,000 offices and 1.2 million friends around the world (there are 33,000 Rotary clubs in 200 countries with 1.2 million members).”
Henderson said that when his organization hears of a disaster, they can call fellow-Rotarians in the affected area and get the relief to the right spot in a very short time.
“Often we are leaving a disaster area when other organizations are just arriving to do their assessments.
“With the Rotary helping hand, we can do it better than anybody else — better than the Red Cross, the United Nations — anybody. They are set up differently. With our timing and efficiency we get to the neediest people quickly.”
Henderson said it often just takes a telephone call to a local Rotary club to determine the needs of a particular area. And, when the ShelterBoxes are flown into an area, the Rotarians help with the distribution, making sure they get to the people truly in need.
“I can call someone I trust and I know that I will get the correct information,” Henderson said.
The program has grown very fast since Henderson came up with the idea in 1999.
“I was watching the news just before Christmas in 1999 and saw coverage of a disaster somewhere in the world,” Henderson said. “What struck me was video of a truck pulling up, and people throwing bread from the truck.
“I thought, where’s the dignity — what are these guys doing?”
Henderson knew he wanted to do something, but was not sure what, or how.
“After dinner that night I sat down and wrote what I would need in a disaster. It essentially came down to warmth, food and dignity. I somehow knew Rotary could help with this.”
Henderson pitched the ShelterBox idea to his local Rotary club and the concept was off and running, starting with one box in Henderson’s garage.
Boxes are generally flown from the UK to the country where a disaster has taken place. ShelterBox Response Teams (SRTs) will charter vehicles locally and work with any appropriate organizations.
Where needed, SRTs are used to finding alternative forms of transport — whether using mules in the mountains of Kashmir or rafts in Sri Lanka.
Boxes are $1,000 each, and the organization has received support from Rotary clubs around the world, along with many individuals and organizations.
“Every box has a unique number, and donors can follow the progress of the box as it is delivered,” Henderson said. “The $1,000 covers the cost of delivering each box. Obviously some areas are harder to reach than others, so transportation costs can vary, but $1,000 is the average.”
Henderson, an ex-Royal Navy rescue diver, has earned the CNN Hero Award for his ShelterBox efforts. He was in the Hudson area for the Rotary 5960 District Conference held on the campus of UW-River Falls April 17-19.
Each ShelterBox is a large, rugged, green plastic container that holds a 10-person tent and a range of other equipment. Contents are adjusted according to the local conditions and what is most urgently needed. Typically they hold:
•Thermal blankets and insulated ground sheets
•Waterproof ponchos and bin bags
•Either a flat-pack wood-burning stove or a multi-fuel stove
•Cooking pans, utensils, bowls and mugs
•Collapsible water containers and water purification tablets
•A basic tool kit: hammer, ax, saw, pliers, hoe head, trenching shovel,
•A small children’s pack containing drawing books, crayons, pens, etc.