Here’s a copy of the newsletter I put together for ShelterBox Australia, it will give you a round-up of the year’s events, a year when ShelterBox has responded to 22 different disasters, from Japan to Libya, Madagascar to Ethiopia. Australian SRT’s have been very involved too, notching up 10 deployments, often as part of the first team in.
A big thank you to all of you who have supported ShelterBox this year, in whatever capacity. 2011 has been a year of rebuilding for ShelterBox Australia and 2012 holds much promise. I’ve recently taken over the role of Publicity Officer and my aim is to make ShelterBox a household name in Australia and get those donations rolling in
Merry Christmas one and all and Happy New Year.
January 2011 – Brazil Floods & Landslides
In late January Mike Greenslade led a 4-person SRT into Terresopolis, Rio De Janeiro State following massive flooding and ensuing landslides that left over 1500 dead and some 16000 homeless. 2 previous teams and representatives from the newly formed ‘ShelterBox Brasil’ had made good progress in a difficult situation. Local politics and regulations meant that the deployment of boxes was slow. Finding suitable safe sites in the mountainous region proved difficult. Nevertheless, perseverance is a quality well noted in an SRT and some 90 tents were erected in 4 different sites.
Mike said, “Our colleagues at SBB and the local Rotary were extremely helpful; the local government and Civil Defense were not! As always, those people we did manage to help were more than grateful.”
February 2011 – Madagascar – Cyclone On the 14th
February Cyclone Bingiza struck Madagascar causing a landfall killing 16 people and destroying 6,000 homes. Flooding in the southern areas of Madagascar saw ShelterBox respond with 404 Shelterboxes.
Peter Pearce joined the assessment team on the ground. Peter said, “We were able to clear our boxes from the capital, Antananarivo after one week, and proceeded by unsealed roads, south to the area of Ambovombe carrying our boxes in four, ten-tonne trucks, covering the 1300 kms in five days/nights. We were met by some 1800 people who had not eaten, drank or been sheltered for more than a week! We were able to shelter some 248 families, and we made a great difference.’
‘I was so emotionally moved by these people that I promised myself that on my return to Aussie I would remove my Shelterbox shirt, put on my Rotary shirt, and come back to assist these people in the future.”
Peter later reported, “I am pleased to say that I took a team of four Rotarians back to Madagascar in October revisiting the camp and other sites. Our tents were still intact and the people were very appreciative that Shelterbox had assisted them when all other systems failed. The purpose of this visit was to also to identify recipients and a consignee; and arrange permission to transport and receive a 40-foot container we are taking into Madagascar in June 2012. This container will be filled with many items including, clothes, sewing machines, water purification units, books, medical equipment and many more important items
The project is registered with RAWCS and is well supported throughout the Rotary world.
March 2011 – Japan – Earthquake & Tsunami
FRIDAY, 11 MARCH: An earthquake measuring 8.9 ravaged Japan, triggering a tsunami that has caused widespread damage. Millions watched the disaster unfold on news channels around the world.
ShelterBox International General Manager and Australian SRT, Lasse Petersen was part of the first team in, hitting the ground within 24hrs. Whilst there, he was joined by past RI Director, John Lawrence. In total over 1700 boxes were delivered to families left homeless by tsunami or evacuated from areas in close proximity to nuclear crisis. Lasse said, “ Japan is amongst the most well prepared nations but the scale of a disaster such as this can still overwhelm local resources during a major crisis. Japanese newspaper articles show families still living in ShelterBox tents five months after disaster.”
May 2011 – Colombia Flooding
TUESDAY, MAY 3: ShelterBox returned to Colombia for the second time in less than six months after widespread flooding has affected an estimated three million people. Peter Pearce deployed for the second time this year, he said, “The flooding of the Magdelena River caused many thousands of villages to become ‘waterlogged’. Over the years the villagers have built walls around the villages bordering on the river to keep the river water out. The problem is, if the water level breaches the wall, that is, becomes higher than the wall, the water is ‘captured’ in the villages and because of the wall, cannot escape. The water will remain trapped until it evaporates. The water becomes very smelly, contaminated & vermin infested. The villagers live inside the roof of their homes to remain dry. Security is a major concern as the local guerilla group, ‘FARK’, that has the habit of kidnapping aid workers for reward. We were to spend some three weeks in a gunboat, fully armed, escorted by 13, also armed and ready marines’.
‘Many teams & many boxes (1244) were sent to Columbia” added Peter.
The drought affecting the Eastern Horn of Africa is the worst the region has seen in 60 years. Millions of families have been affected by massive water and food shortages, and the drought and ongoing conflict in Somalia is causing families to flee their homes, with thousands arriving at refugee camps in Kenya and Ethiopia every day. Peter Pearce was busy once again, leading the first team into Kenya, whilst Mike Greenslade formed one half of team 1, Ethiopia. Gary Bidner led a subsequent team to the Dolo Ado region of Ethiopia and met with much success
Peter reports, “ ShelterBox has had past experiences dealing with Kenya customs, most of those experiences were not pleasant or successful. Ingrid Criddle (UK), and myself were sent over to Kenya to see if we could ‘line up’ a consignee to get our tents through to Dadaab refugee camp, tax and duty free. We were pleased to be able to form a partnership for the delivery of some 7,000 tents, aligning ourselves with UNHCR.’
’Upon leaving Nairobi we traveled a most dangerous road into the largest refugee camp in the world, Dadaab. We worked with camp administrators UNHCR to prepare sites and recipients for the arrival of our tents. We were confronted by many thousands of desperate people who have walked for many days covering the distance from Somalia to Kenya. These people had no choice but to flee Somalia as they were all dying from hunger, thirst and lawlessness. We were told horrific stories of murder, rape and beatings as the womenfolk traveled to Kenya on foot. Women were forced to leave their dying children on the side of the road, too weak to continue the journey, without food or water. We witnessed the many thousands that waited outside the security gates of the fortress that is, Dadaab, waiting for their turn to be ‘processed’. ShelterBox provided 7,000 tents … they needed 45,000! I said at the time that there is no word in the English language that adequately expresses the terrible circumstances that these people are experiencing. Shelterbox has ‘pulled out’ of Kenya after two MSF volunteers were kidnapped. Of all my ten deployments, this one was definitely the most confronting”.
Mike, along with UK SRT, Dave Ray, spent the first few weeks in Addis Ababa negotiating the importation of over 1500 boxes. It was the first time Shelterbox had operated in Ethiopia and there were many hoops to jump through to ensure tax-free importation. Mike said, “With the help of Rotary in Addis, we teamed up with Save The Children USA, aiming to help those most vulnerable. These things are never straightforward and in the end UNHCR came to the rescue as a last minute consignee. After weeks of prolonged negotiations, the boxes arrived by air charter at Bole Airport, cleared customs and were on their 3-day journey to Dolo Ado within 24hrs. Hugely rewarding for all concerned”
Gary said, “Refugee camps are a very politically sensitive arena to work within and certain stumbling-blocks were encountered by the previous teams in the Bokolmayo Refugee Camp Distribution was halted while a number of problems were sorted.
Shelterbox did not have a licence to operate within Ethiopia, so we worked under the umbrella of Save the Children and in doing so were officially only a supplier of tents and could not be actively involved in the distribution or erection. Our objective was to oversee the development, approve, and help to implement a distribution plan that would be self-sustaining after we departed. No further teams were being deployed. This was achieved. Well-trained teams of refugees were erecting the tents for the recipient families, under the control of a dedicated Save co-ordinator. They were expecting to complete the distribution in 4 weeks.
‘Our key challenge was to achieve the above outcome without being seen to be doing anything, supply and monitor but not actively distribute.’
Save the Children provided the lists of unaccompanied minors, vulnerable children and handicapped refugees as being those most urgently requiring shelter. Many had been without adequate shelter or living in very over crowded conditions for many months. The joy of having their own space and privacy was evident in their faces when given the tent and the other box contents.”
August 2011 – Philippines – Flooding
In the Philippines a tropical storm struck the islands causing widespread flooding and devastation. Peter Pearce’s feet hardly touched the ground before he was off again. Peter said, “This is the fifth time I have been deployed there. Many floods/cyclones/typhoons hit the Philippines every year. The Philippines is now a Shelterbox Affiliate, and has many boxes prepositioned there for immediate use. I am of the opinion that our new ‘MIDI’ tent would suit the need there very capably. The recipients normally have saved their blankets, pots etc, but certainly need some shelter for a short time until the waters recede”
October 2011 – Thailand – Flooding
Brisbane based ShelterBox director Lasse Petersen was in Thailand during ShelterBox recent deployment to assist flood victims after months of heavy rain put much of the capital and surrounding area underwater.
Lasse said, “The extent of flooding was hard to imagine. We flew by military helicopter for an hour barely seeing any areas of dry land. Finding dry areas to erect tents proved a challenge in many locations.
ShelterBox worked closely with local community Rotarians and Thai Red Cross to identify suitable sites and ensure emergency shelter was available, if flood-threatened hospitals needed evacuation. Shelter was provided for over 1400 families in locations including Ayuthaya, Lop Buri, Thonburi and around Bangkok”.
October 2011 – Turkey – Earthquake
On 23rd October a 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck southeast Turkey, with the epicentre at the village of Tabanli, 20 kilometres north of the city of Van. Another large earthquake followed days later, registering 5.6 caused damage to many towns and villages Greg Moran said, “heavy falls of snow hampered aid getting to the needy people. We worked with the UN and Red Crescent Turkey to distribute Shelterboxes to affected villages and towns. The blankets and thermal lining of the tents were certainly appreciated by the most grateful recipients. Some of these villages are at about 8000 ft ASL in the mountains with very poor access and little aid” 1400 boxes were distributed, with thermal linings and solar lights being used in the field for the first time.
October 2011 – Haiti – Earthquake recovery
It’s been an eventful year for our newest SRT, Anthony Keating. Here is his summary:
Its safe to say that the last 12 months has been a massive journey for me starting with my selection weekend in November 2010 up in Queensland through to the 9 day SRT selection course in Cornwall 8 months later in July 2011.
Before 12 months was up I received that call in early October from HQ to confirm my availability for deployment and within a few days I was heading to Haiti, not your usual deployment, as there hadn’t been a recent disaster in Haiti since the initial earthquake of The 12th January 2010. The deployment this time was to work closely with the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and Camp Management to arrange a distribution plan to have all tents distributed before Christmas. Since the disaster in January 2010 ShelterBox has distributed over 28,000 tents and a lot of these tents have been distributed through our partners such FRC, JPHRO and IOM. Our goal was to centralise all remaining tents to IOM’s warehouse and assist with a clear distribution plan. The experience is one I’ll never forget, some 20 months later and there is such a strong need with over 680,000 Haitians still living in tents. More so now than ever our tents are helping those in most need return back to their own land.
There will soon be a ShelterBox Australia blog so you can keep up to date with all that’s going on. In the meantime you can support the essential work of ShelterBox Australia by making a donation here
Many thanks & a Happy New Year, cheers, Mike