The local media then latched onto our efforts and helped to raise our profile and awareness. While we knew our 300 boxes were not going to have the greatest effect on the thousands of displaced families and communities, they had the best impact we could have asked for on the communities back home.
All around the globe, 26 December 2004 is synonymous with one thing – the Boxing Day Tsunami. Thousands of families suffered personally and as for the 12 countries directly affected, they will remember this geographical phenomenon for years to come. But so too, will ShelterBox, for without this cataclysmic event, the path ShelterBox has taken would have been very different to where we have ended up today, ten years on.
Whilst people were sitting around their televisions full of Christmas lunch from the day before, the founding members of ShelterBox sprang into action sending out 300 boxes they had ready-packed in the warehouse.
The local community’s response was astounding. A group of volunteers stood outside a local supermarket for four days and raised a staggering £35,000 in the midst of Christmas and New Year period! We had people queueing up outside our warehouse trying to help in any way possible.
We were lucky enough to have a link with the haulage and transport community and were able to tap into their resources by sending our boxes up to the airports on the otherwise empty lorries returning up-country. By now we had more money and volunteers coming in than we, the small organization based on the tip of Cornwall, knew what to do with.
‘Looking back over the years, if these people hadn’t enlisted themselves as volunteers, dedicating their time, resources and efforts – whether they were packing the boxes, fundraising for the charity or the companies who assisted us in transporting our boxes out to the disaster zones, we wouldn’t be here today’ said Ian Munday, retired board member.
The level of activity within the charity increased beyond what anyone could have imagined. The number of boxes we had planned to produce for the year was 1,200 but by the end of 2005 we had produced over 22,000!
By the end of March we had received more than £7 million worth of donations and had produced over 10,000 boxes alone. Seemingly overnight we had a twentyfold increase and as testament to the efforts of our volunteers, had managed to survive it.
Operating on a world stage
By handling the pressure from the increase in our operations, we showed that ShelterBox was emerging as an established charity with the ability to rank alongside the likes of aid agencies CARE and the International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC) in disaster relief. The sheer scale of the tsunami’s destruction allowed us to garner more visibility from increased news coverage as we responded to the 12 countries affected around the Indian Ocean.
We cemented our status on the world stage of disaster relief charities by surviving the dramatic increase of activity without compromising our goal: delivering our aid to the thousands who were in need of it.
With the ten-year anniversary approaching, we, along with the millions of others around the globe, pay our respects to those who lost their lives in this catastrophic event. But we will also quietly remember that it was this disaster that brought us to the attention of thousands of donors, who helped us assist the hundreds of thousands of beneficiaries to rebuild their lives.