On September 20, about 250 people turned out for ShelterBox USA’s second annual Evening to Experience ShelterBox on the scenic grounds of John McGovern’s Summerland estate. More than $225,000 was raised for this international disaster relief organization, which provides ShelterBoxes, ShelterKits, and other supplies to those displaced by conflict or disaster. ShelterBoxes contain tents for temporary shelter and ShelterKits provide the essential tools for repairing and rebuilding homes.
During the reception, in addition to the usual mingling, eating and drinking, guests got to check out the boxes and kits and hear from response team members about their incredible work. During the program, President Kerri Murray explained how ShelterBox USA (ShelterBox) is focused on providing emergency shelter to communities that have lost everything and noted that there are currently 85 million people displaced worldwide, 60 million through conflict situations and 25 million through disasters.
QAD received the 2018 Community Partner Award for providing ShelterBox with office space and helping it establish a presence here. Donations received at the event were generously matched by the Zegar Family Foundation.
ShelterBox is currently assisting people affected by Typhoon Mangkhut in the Philippines, earthquakes in Indonesia, flooding in Kenya and Ethiopia, and drought in Somaliland. ShelterBox is also providing aid to those displaced by conflict in Syria, Iraq, Cameroon, Chad, Niger, and Nigeria. In recent years, ShelterBox’s aid has been split about evenly between conflict areas and disaster areas.
Its response teams on the ground assess needs, coordinate the delivery of aid, and work with the community in constructing the shelters and using other aid. With disasters, ShelterBox’s responses are often at the request of governments. ShelterBox frequently coordinates with the United Nations through its Cluster Shelter. In the U.S., ShelterBox is a member of VOAD (Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters) and has provided aid at the request of FEMA, including during Hurricane Harvey in Texas.
It has a strong relationship with Rotary International, with Rotary providing support on the ground in 90 percent of deployments. Also, Rotary accounts for about 30 percent of ShelterBox’s funding. ShelterBox often works with Habitat for Humanity, International Federation of Red Cross, and other international relief organizations. In Syria, because of safety concerns, ShelterBox is not sending in its own volunteers but instead working with Syrian distribution partners, whom they supply at the Turkish border.
Tents come in many variations to suit the particular environment. Kits and other supplies are customized to best meet the needs of the community. The delivered cost of boxes and kits average $1,000 and $500 respectively. Living supplies are often provided, including water filtration equipment, cooking sets, blankets, ground mats, mosquito netting, and solar lights. On occasion, ShelterBox provides additional types of aid. In Syria, because of the extended duration of the conflict, it is also supplying educational materials.
ShelterBox operates with about a $2 million budget, low expenses, a lean staff of eight full-time and three part-time employees, a dedicated core of 50 volunteer response team members, and many other volunteers. The response team members go through a nine-month assessment and training period, which only one in 30 applicants complete. New recruits are being sought — the application period opens next month. Last year, there were 84 volunteer deployments.
In 2017, ShelterBox provided shelter and supplies to about 162,000 people in 23 countries, including victims of Hurricane Harvey in Texas, Hurricanes Irma and Maria in the Caribbean, the Rohingya refugee crisis in Bangladesh; severe drought in Somaliland; and flooding in Colombia, Paraguay and Peru.
One guest at the event, Brian Fox of Newport Beach-based Fox Group Real Estate, has a novel form of philanthropy: for every house his team sells, he buys a ShelterKit. So far this year, he has bought 18 kits. Hopefully other businesses will be inspired.
ShelterBox USA, with offices in Summerland and Lakewood, FL, was founded in 2004 and is an affiliate of ShelterBox Trust in England. The trust has affiliates in 18 countries, all established by Rotary Clubs, most run by volunteers. ShelterBox USA is 4-Star rated by Charity Navigator. It has attracted the attention of the highly respected Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, whose Discovery Center in Seattle is featuring ShelterBox as part of a current exhibit on innovative, low-cost design solutions for the world’s most vulnerable communities.
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