ShelterBox and Rotary – inspiring young people to take action

‘Do it!’ – Young people call other young people to join them in humanitarian volunteering with Rotary and ShelterBox

Does charity work appeal to young people? Organisations such as Rotary and ShelterBox may have an adult profile, but the momentum is growing among a younger generation to generate the next big humanitarian wave. Meet four people who enthuse about a youthful future for volunteering.

‘Do it! I would encourage any young person to look further into this.’ That is the rallying cry from Katelyn Winkworth, a young Australian who has recently qualified as a ShelterBox response volunteer, and keenly awaits her first deployment to help families caught up in war or natural disaster.

Aged 23 when she attended the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards in 2014, Katelyn subsequently set up a Rotaract club in Brisbane with colleagues. Rotaract – literally Rotary in Action – had its roots in American universities and local communities, beginning in North Carolina in 1968. Now it has over 11,000 clubs worldwide and 253,000 members. For young men and women aged 18 to 30, it is badged as ‘a global effort to bring peace and international understanding to the world.’

Katelyn on completion of her pre-deployment training with Shelterbox

Katelyn’s enthusiasm for humanitarian work began with Rotary. ‘My Rotaract Club volunteered to help at a fundraiser for ShelterBox. When I learnt about the work that Rotary and ShelterBox were doing together, I immediately wanted to become further involved. A Rotary mentor passed on the details of an Australian Shelterbox contact, and my journey began.’

‘Humanitarian work can be very specialised and it can feel hard to get involved, but these organisations are well established, with support all around the world. ShelterBox can go into nearly any country, and be assured that there are Rotarians there who will provide invaluable support for their humanitarian work. Both organisations are supportive and provide incredible training opportunities.’  

Does Katelyn feel that enough is done to attract young people to the cause? ‘Bridging the gap between older members and younger members is important! It can be a good idea to support any young person that wishes to come along to Rotary, perhaps dedicating a Rotarian to make a special effort to welcome newcomers.’

Katelyn adds that young people may assume they have to be a lot more experienced or progressed in their career before joining the ShelterBox team or volunteering. But, in fact, a quarter of ShelterBox staff are aged under 30, and two thirds under 40. She thinks visibility is key. ‘For both ShelterBox and Rotary more advertising and promotion is required, as people won’t get involved in things they simply don’t know about! Getting the word out is important.’

‘It’s so important to engage young people’

ShelterBox had its origins in the Rotary movement eighteen years ago, and now is Rotary’s global project partner in Disaster Relief. Rotary clubs have plenty of outreach programmes which support young people. The Rotary Club of Truro Satellite often meets at ShelterBox HQ, and it has had particular success in taking school computer equipment and furniture to the Romanian city of Targoviste.

Cathie Shipwright, Secretary of the Rotary Evolution Club of Truro, says, From a Rotary perspective it has been a hard sell to engage young people in getting involved with a longstanding international service organisation. With the support of Rotary International, we are able to offer a different approach to Rotary membership – with a monthly Saturday morning meeting over coffee and cake. We then get involved with other charities in supporting them with events such as collecting, marshalling etc.’

Rotary clubs have been active in the international eradication of polio, and on the creative side hold art and photography competitions at local schools.

‘I believe in this modern world of technology, instant communication and social media that young people are much more aware of issues locally and internationally, and we have to find ways that allow them to get involved and engaged in an innovative and interesting way. Life for young people is very busy and they find it difficult to commit regularly, but anything that allows them to dip in and out is useful.’

‘With regard to ShelterBox – this is a great example of how Rotary can make things happen. It has become a worldwide phenomenon. The nature of its work I believe appeals to younger people and the chance to work and volunteer with the organisation is a great opportunity.’

‘Both organisations give me an opportunity to help society and people in need, which gives me immense satisfaction.’

Ashish (left) and his Rotaract colleagues were instrumental in ShelterBox’s response to the 2015 Nepal earthquakes

Ashish Chaulagain lives and works in Kathmandu, Nepal, and first became aware of ShelterBox in 2007 at the age of 19. He explains, ‘My home club the Rotaract Club of Kathmandu had helped a ShelterBox deployment in the far western region of Nepal to support families affected by flooding. Later in 2008, when there was another flood in the country, I contacted ShelterBox HQ asking for help. ShelterBox sent a response team of four with 624 ShelterBoxes to the flood affected victims.’

Ashish was also first to notify ShelterBox in 2015 when a massive earthquake struck Nepal. Now a Head of Department at Thames International College in Kathmandu, he has also been a team leader on Rotary’s literacy mission in Nepal, and presented a paper entitled the ‘Call of Youth’ at the World Forum Conference in 2014.

Asish’s connections with ShelterBox continue today, and he is one of the most enthusiastic advocates of attracting young people to humanitarian ethics. He says, ‘ShelterBox is an amazing organisation to work with. I know of only a few organisations that push themselves beyond their boundaries to help people in need, and ShelterBox is one such organisation.’

‘I give most of my free time to Rotary and ShelterBox. Both organisations give me an opportunity to help society and people in need, which in fact gives me immense satisfaction. I have made my family and employers clear on my passion for community service, so it’s easy for me to get time from them and from my other appointments. They are also proud of my involvement.’

Ashish feels he brings the particular skills of communication, cross-cultural adaptability, negotiation, and above all, friendliness. Looking to the future for both Rotary and ShelterBox he sees, ‘More opportunity to involve more youngsters, with the right communication and training and development for them.’

Yanni found working at ShelterBox HQ inspirartional

Yannis Commino, from Newcastle in Australia, is one of ten Interns that ShelterBox has offered training to in the last year. He says, I was presented with the opportunity of a lifetime. During my New Generations Service Exchange at the headquarters of ShelterBox International in Truro, Cornwall, I gained priceless insight and first-hand experience in disaster relief management.’

‘As I walked through the doors of ShelterBox headquarters, I was greeted by a youthful, vibrant, and enthusiastic team. I was impressed by their morning meetings, as they sit in front of four large television screens analysing the current deployments and tracking global news of the day.’

‘I truly believe this was the beginning of a lifetime of experiences.’

New Generations Service Exchange is a Rotary short-term programme for young university students or young professionals up to age 30, who are interested in humanitarian work. More details here.

All these young people, and thousands more like them, are discovering that working or volunteering in the humanitarian sector is exciting and fulfilling. As Yannis says, ‘This kind of work will enable me to merge my two passions: helping others and exploring new destinations and cultures.’



ShelterBox and Rotary are project partners for international disaster response. A registered charity, ShelterBox is independent of Rotary International and The Rotary Foundation.

To find out about volunteering with ShelterBox Australia, please visit:


ShelterBox Nominated For Nobel Peace Prize

We’ve had a lot of questions and enthusiasm about the news that ShelterBox has been nominated for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize. We are truly honoured to be able to confirm that this is true.
We’ll keep you updated with any further news – the winner is announced in October 2018.

Building Peace

Every minute, more families – just like yours – lose everything in the chaos of conflict. Their homes, their livelihoods, and even family members are brutally snatched away.
When missiles and mortars leave cities in ruins, when troops storm villages, when families fear for their lives – we believe that shelter can cut through the chaos.
Shelter is more than a roof. It is protection from the cold, the rain, the sun, dangerous animals, disease. It is the foundation for life, for family, for community. It’s a space to feel safe, to have privacy, to heal and start the long road to recovery.
Right now, we’re providing aid to families with houses left in tatters by bombs and fighting. We’re helping families caught in some of the world’s most extreme conflict zones, including the Syrian conflict and the Lake Chad Basin, and also in some of the world’s largest refugee camps like Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh.
Our work keeps families and communities together, increasing feelings of stability and togetherness during a time of unprecedented global conflict and displacement.
We can’t give back what was lost, but we can provide the tools for families and communities to start their own recovery, promoting stability in the face of such huge trauma.
We can give tents, tarpaulins, ropes and nails and other vital tools to rebuild a home. Solar lights so children can see their parents in the dark night and communities can combat isolation at night. Blankets to keep warm; mosquito nets, water filters and containers to protect from disease; cooking pots to provide meals.
All vitally important when suddenly you have nothing and you need to rebuild your home and your place in the world.

Unexpected lessons from my disaster relief experience

Here’s a great little story that involves the The Rotary Club of Morisset , NSW and the Rotary Club of Truro, Cornwall via ShelterBox Australia and ShelterBox HQ ……..

Rotary Voices

Yannis Comino with ShelterBox aid supplies.

By Yannis Comino

Over my summer break at the University of Newcastle in New South Wales, I decided to trade in the warmer weather of Australia for an English winter. Why, you might ask, would I do such a thing? Well, the only way I can explain it is — I was presented with the opportunity of a lifetime. During my New Generations Service Exchange at the headquarters of ShelterBox International in Truro, Cornwall, I gained priceless insight and first-hand experience in disaster relief management.

View original post 439 more words

World Rotary Day 2018 – Thank You Rotary!

Rotary was integral to our response to hurricanes in the Caribbean in 2017

ShelterBox began life as a Rotary Club project back in 2000. Since its humble beginnings, with the help of Rotary International and Rotarians around the world, it has grown to become a world leader in emergency shelter provision . In 2011, ShelterBox was granted Project Partnership status by Rotary International, cementing the special relationship between the two organsiations.

ShelterBox Australia’s CEO, Mike Greenslade, a Rotarian from the Alstonville club in Northern NSW, said,

I’ve been involved as ShelterBox Response Team member since 2006 and have deployed 22 times with ShelterBox. On nearly all of those deployments, Rotary have been essential partners on the ground, providing useful local knowledge, accommodation, transport, translators, warehousing and personnel. Moreover, Rotarians always offer us warm hospitality wherever we go. In fact, the first Rotary club meeting I attended was in Rabaul, Papua New Guinea, on my first deployment; we shared a meal and great camaraderie and talked about customs clearance and transport options. Nothing would have happened in PNG without Rotary.’

Help from the Rotary Club of Rabaul was essential in PNG in 2006

‘The support we get from Rotary Clubs in Australia is no less important. Most of our volunteers are Rotarians and clubs give a significant amount of our funding. Today is a day to say ‘thank you Rotary!’ There are over 1.2 million disaster-affected families that are better off because of you!”

Thanks to all our Rotary Ambassadors and volunteers!

Give The Gift Of Shelter This Christmas

This Christmas, families around the world will find themselves homeless and in desperate need of help. Whether they have lost their homes to a natural disaster, like the victims of Hurricane Matthew in Haiti or have been forced to leave their homes because of conflict, like the millions fleeing the violence in Syria and Iraq, their needs are quite simple: Shelter, Warmth & Dignity.

Make a donation to the ‘ShelterBox Solution’ as a gift for a loved one and receive this special card to give in lieu of your present.

All you have to do is make a donation of $50 or more by clicking the button below and email us at to notify us that this is a Christmas gift and we’ll send the card out to you. The cut-off date to receive your card in time for Christmas is 15th December.

The ‘ShelterBox Solution’ is our flexible disaster relief fund, allowing us to respond more accurately to beneficiary needs. This might be in the form of a Shelter Kit, relief tent, SchoolBox, or a wide variety of non-food items, like water filters, mosquito nets and solar lights.

Shelter Kits kits provide families with to the tools to build their own shelter or repair a damaged home. Increasingly governments are wanting families affected by disaster to be part of their own recovery, building back better and stronger homes and more resilient communities.

Of course there will always be a place for ShelterBoxes, especially where families have lost everything. To sponsor a box costs $1,000 and if you do so as a gift for a loved one you’ll receive this special card.

Donate here to sponsor a box and give a gift that really makes a difference.

Thank you for your support and Merry Christmas from all of us at ShelterBox Australia.

Other ways to donate:
Phone: 1300 996 038
Post a cheque to: ShelterBox Australia, PO Box 254, Parramatta, NSW, 2124
EFT or direct deposit:  Westpac, ShelterBox Australia, BSB 032 189, account # 230 147. Please make sure you email to notify us of you donation and that it is Christmas Gift.

Central Coast Event Celebrates Women’s Achievement And Explores Issues


ShelterBox Response Team volunteer, Peita Berzins with some young supporters


ShelterBox Australia attended another successful Central Coast Women’s Expo, held on Saturday March 5 at Ourimbah campus, which is part of Newcastle University. The event promotes awareness about women’s issues and uniting the community.

ShelterBox Response Team volunteer, Peita Berzins said, 

It is uplifting to see how much good is being done by volunteers in so many local organisations. These included WOW (Women of the Waves), Days for Girls, Central Coast a Capella, Breast Screening as well as many health related stalls. As well, seminars ran throughout the day. I attended a thought-provoking, well-presented one on Gender Equity.

Our ShelterBox stall was comfortably ensconced right near the entry between various local Rotary club stalls and it was very nice to see friendly faces like Christine Owen and Tina Latham from Kincumber Rotary, Joan Redmond from Woy Woy Rotary as well as Sandra Davies from Terrigal Rotary.

Many attendees were interested in the recent Fiji cyclone and people gave generously, almost $150 was donated.

We are also pleased to welcome more people to become ShelterBox Ambassadors on the Central Coast – anyone who may be interested, please contact me at

ShelterBox Farewells HMAS Tobruk

Aerial image of HMAS Tobruk at sea

HMAS Tobruk sailed into Sydney Harbour for the last time this morning.(photo courtesy of RAN)

With 35 years service and over a million nautical miles under her belt, HMAS Tobruk has made her final journey through Sydney Heads this morning, to be decommissioned. Tobruk holds special significance for ShelterBox, as we have worked with her and her crew on several occasions in her disaster relief role. In late 2013 Tobruk assisted ShelterBox Response Teams working in the Philippines following Typhoon Haiyan.

ShelterBox Reponse Team members Alice Jefferson (left-centre) and Ayeasia Macintyre (right) among Australian Naval staff. Photo courtesy of the Australian Navy.

ShelterBox Response Team members, Alice Jefferson (left-centre) and Ayeasia Macintyre (right) among Australian Naval staff. Photo courtesy of the Australian Navy.

Tobruk’s extensive inventory includes helicopters, landing craft and lightweight RIBs that proved invaluable to help ShelterBox reach people on remote islands in the Filipino archipelago.

Most recently, SRT volunteers (including Australian, Greg Moran) worked with crew members from Tobruk to distribute aid those affected by Cyclone Pam in Vanuatu.

Response Team members plan distributions on the ground with the crew of HMAS Tobruk

ShelterBox Response Team members work with the crew of HMAS Tobruk on the island of Tanna in Vanuatu

We wish the officers and crew of Tobruk all the best for the future and thank them for their service.


Sikh Community Support ShelterBox Through Logan Rotary

Rotarians & partners from Logan & Beenleigh setup a Shelterbox tent and display at the Temple. Note the headwear expected to be worn while visiting.

Rotarians & partners from Logan & Beenleigh setup a Shelterbox tent and display at the Temple. Note the headwear expected to be worn while visiting.


Courtesy of Rotarian, Dr Mukhitar Sidhu, members of the Rotary Clubs of Logan and Beenleigh (D9630), attended a very special presentation at the Guru Nanak Sikh Temple on Sunday, 21 June. The group received an amazing $10,000 donation towards Shelterbox’s relief efforts in Nepal and other countries affected by natural and man-made disaster.

Accepting the donation on behalf of Shelterbox Australia, Shelterbox Ambassador, PP Tim Keeler, thanked members of the Inala Temple for their kind gift to the people of Nepal and others affected by disaster

With a display erected outside, the Sikh community welcomed the club members into the Temple to witness the presentation and then to share in a community meal.

Member of the Sikh Temple and Rotarian, Dr Mukhitar Sidhu, proudly remarked that their community numbers between 200-300 members making this a very generous gift.

Tim accepts the cheque for $10,000 on behalf of the Rotary Club of Logan & ShelterBox Australia

Tim accepts the cheque for $10,000 on behalf of the Rotary Club of Logan & ShelterBox Australia


In accepting the donation, PP Tim Keeler spoke about the work of Shelterbox and the similarities between Rotary’s ideal of “Service above Self” and the Sikh teaching of ‘Seva’ or selfless service.

A strong and lasting relationship has been formed between the Sikh community and Rotary. Our sincere thanks go out to the Sikh community for their generous support.

ShelterBox Australia Mourns The Passing of Greville Easte

Greville Easte, Ex-Director and ShelterBox Ambassador for Queensland

Greville Easte, Ex-Director and ShelterBox Ambassador for Queensland

It was with great sadness that I learnt of the passing of my great friend and colleague, Greville Easte. Greville was a true stalwart of ShelterBox Australia and his drive and enthusiasm will be sorely missed by all. A passionate Rotarian, Greville was the epitome of   ‘Service Above Self’ and was rightly proud of the fact that in one year as a ShelterBox District Representative, he raised over $240,000.

Greville (L) with Rotary colleagues at the ShelterBox Expo in Queen St, Brisbane. 2011

Greville (L) with Rotary colleagues at the ShelterBox Expo in Queen St, Brisbane. 2011

For many years, Greville was the first point of contact for all ShelterBox Australia District Reps and Ambassadors and enquiries on the 1300 number. He continued to support me in my role as General Manager until the very end. His knowledge of the workings of Rotary was invaluable and his experience in marketing and sales were of immense help as we worked to move the organisation forward and realise its potential. Grev was an accomplished public speaker and had been a member of Toast Masters for many years. He thought nothing of loading a hefty ShelterBox into his car, driving long distances to set up a tent and promote our cause.

Greville saw that the longterm future of ShelterBox lay with engagement with youth. He was at the forefront of programmes to encourage members of Scouts, Rotaract, Interact and school children to get involved. I remember spending a week with Grev at the Scout Jamboree in Maryborough, with temperatures in the high 30’s, camping out in a Shelterbox Relief Tent. There wasn’t much this hardy old Kiwi couldn’t handle.

Greville with the winning team in the ShelterBox Tent Challenge, Australian Scout Jamboree 2103

Greville with the winning team in the ShelterBox Tent Challenge, Australian Scout Jamboree 2103

Greville was also instrumental in the development of the ShelterBox Interactive game. Together with Jennie Schoof and the Rotary Club of Capalaba, Greville saw the project through from concept to production. The game, which educates players about disaster relief and preparedness and is aimed at ‘children of all ages’. It has been adopted by several councils in Queensland and is being used by the Red Cross in Northern NSW.

Greville playing the ShelterBox Interactive Game

Greville playing the ShelterBox Interactive Game


In 2014 Greville was recognised by the Board of ShelterBox Australia with an award for:

For outstanding commitment to ShelterBox Australia and service in the areas of promotion, fundraising and governance.

This award recognises Greville’s service as a representative of ShelterBox Australia in Rotary Districts 9640, 9570 and 9600 from 2004.

Greville also served on the Board of ShelterBox Australia from 2010 to 2013.

Greville Easte receives his Award for Outstanding Service to ShelterBox from Past RI Director and ShelterBox Australia colleague, John Lawrence

Greville Easte receives his Award for Outstanding Service to ShelterBox from Past RI Director and ShelterBox Australia colleague, John Lawrence, with 9600 DG, George Grant and PDG, Carolyn Krueger

Greville leaves a lasting legacy in ShelterBox Australia and the thousands of families he has helped provide with Shelter, Warmth & Dignity. I will miss our talks on the phone, jokes via email, beers in the ‘man cave’ and true cameraderie. Rest in peace my friend.



Australian SRT Member Reports From Her First Deployment

Image of Australian SRT member, Peita Berzins conducts a 'train the trainer' session in Malawi

Australian SRT member, Peita Berzins conducts a ‘train the trainer’ session in Malawi

Retired teacher and ShelterBox Response Team volunteer, Peita Berzins has recently returned from her first deployment, to flood-stricken Malawi. Peita, from Bateau Bay on the NSW Central Coast, is the first female Australian ShelterBox Response Team member to deploy overseas and recounts below the steep learning curve of operating in a disaster zone.


With the worst floods in forty years, and hundreds of thousands homeless, ShelterBox deployed from mid-January to this small and very poor, agrarian based African country, assessing where the most need was for our emergency shelter. Many people found safety in school buildings and churches, and after the floods receded began to return to their villages if possible. 

I spent almost three weeks there in March on my first deployment, and can affirm Malawi’s reputation as “the warm heart of Africa.” We had teams in Zomba, Nsanji,  Chikwawa and Phalombe.

On my “nine-dayer” in October 2014, the course you must pass to become a ShelterBox Response Team member, a wise SRT said that deployment is “like drinking from a water hydrant…full on!” And my time in Malawi was exactly that….a huge learning curve of new environments, witnessing displaced, stoic villagers, collapsed mud brick houses, warm handshakes and laughter, rounds of meetings with officials, local chiefs and Traditional Authorities, government and other Non-Government Organisations, women with colourful ‘chitenje’ wrapping their babies tight around their back, intense heat and dripping perspiration, green hills and fields of corn, paperwork and phone calls, and our experienced driver Jonathan negotiating bad roads and avoiding a myriad of pedestrians and cyclists.


My experience was quite varied, spending some days in Blantyre, where ShelterBox ICC (In Country Coordinator), Alice Jefferson was based, and journeying to assess the outlying district Phalombe, past the huge Mulanji Mountain, with waterfalls cascading down. Finally, we were based in Chikwawa in the south, where my two-person team, after some intense negotiations with local officials, was able to distribute 124 ShelterBoxes to vulnerable households.

The situation in Chikwawa differed to other districts like Zomba, because land rights was a troubling issue. Farmers in the lowlands had their homes swept away in the floods, and the government indicated they must relocate to higher ground, which caused conflict as this land was owned by another Traditional Authority. Detailed verification of those most in need of shelter – the elderly and infirm, single-headed households, lactating mothers – was required. Some desperate people missed out, and this was hard to decide.

Image of Peita Demonstrating the contents of a ShelterBox to beneficiaries

Demonstrating the contents of a ShelterBox to beneficiaries

Another key learning experience for me was how crucial it is to work closely within the cluster of other emergency agencies. Shelter must coordinate with WASH groups ( Water and Sanitation Hygiene), which, for example UNICEF may help arrange. A camp can only be set up if WASH is in place, with a water source like a bore, latrines and bathing facilities. There was a real danger of disease like cholera? spreading through the camps.

A special moment was issuing ownership certificates to Kalima village. These 29 vulnerable households had been living in school outbuildings for two months. This ShelterBox certificate affirms that the tent with all the NFIs (Non Food Items) like solar lamps, blankets, water containers, cooking pots and tools, donated by generous people around the world, is now their property. The joy of these people, as each household head came forward to receive the certificate, was very moving. A sort of dance ensued as I mirrored the recipient’s bow or curtsy, and soon there was much laughter and the women began to uulate, a kind of throaty cry of happiness.

Happy beneficiaries in Malawi

Happy beneficiaries in Malawi

It is only due to donor generosity that ShelterBox can continue this important work, tailoring the need for the many people suffering around the world after disaster has struck. It is a privilege to volunteer as a ShelterBox Response Team member, and I look forward to my next deployment and the ensuing roller coaster of learning, experience and aiding beneficiaries.


ShelterBox is currently distributing 1,000 ShelterBoxes, 650 Shelter Kits and 500 tarpaulins in Malawi. You can help us respond to disasters and humanitarian crises by donating here: PLEASE DONATE