Tomorrow, 20th June is World Refugee Day – Dame Judi Dench endorses ShelterBox

Portrait of Dame Judi Dench

Dame Judi Dench. Image © Sarah Dunn

I support ShelterBox and the crucial work they do. Shelter and togetherness are stepping-stones to recovery.’ Dame Judi Dench on World Refugee Day

On the UN’s World Refugee Day (20th June) one of the world’s most famous Oscar-winners has given her backing to an agency that has helped hundreds of thousands of displaced people. Dame Judi Dench has generously endorsed the work of ShelterBox, saying that in a world on the run from disaster, ‘ShelterBox brings hope.’


mother and son at a refugee camp in Iraqi Kurdistan © ShelterBox

Dame Judi Dench is celebrated from Hollywood to Broadway to the West End. She has followed the work of international disaster relief agency ShelterBox for several years. Tomorrow is World Refugee Day, held every year on 20 June, when the United Nations commemorates the strength, courage and perseverance of millions of refugees.

ShelterBox is an international charity that provides emergency shelter to families who have lost their homes through conflict and natural disaster. The charity is currently responding to refugee crises in Cameroon, Niger, Chad, Syria and Iraq. A team will also shortly be heading to Uganda, which has the world’s largest refugee camp at Bidi Bidi, home to 800,000 people, many fleeing war in South Sudan. ShelterBox works hard to understand the need created by differing emergency situations, and has created a flexible range of aid that includes tools, tents and tarpaulins for families to make urgent shelter or repair buildings where there is no other possible provision. The aid can be used to create a temporary base in communities or refugee camps, but it is also light and portable for people moving from one place to the next.

Dame Judi has supported ShelterBox in the past, and donated a signed and framed theatre poster for sale in 2011. Now, with World Refugee day being promoted by the United Nations next week, she has again expressed her support.

Dame Judi says, ‘When disaster strikes and families are left with nothing, ShelterBox brings hope. Responding to each situation individually, ShelterBox gives tailor-made support – a place to live, equipment to cook with and to purify water, mosquito nets in the summer, scarves and blankets in the winter and SchoolBoxes to provide young people with the stability of the classroom.’

Right now there are 85 million people worldwide on the move, forced to flee their towns and villages by conflict, or natural disasters such as earthquakes, landslides, flooding and cyclones. Hardworking volunteers in the ShelterBox warehouse pack the boxes, which are then delivered to some of the most remote and dangerous places on earth by our dedicated ShelterBox Response Teams.’

Happy Syrian children in their ShelterBox tent, El Minie, Lebanon ©MIkeGreenslade/ShelterBox

Happy Syrian children in their ShelterBox tent, El Minie, Lebanon ©MikeGreenslade/ShelterBox

I support ShelterBox and the crucial work they do all over the world helping families who have lost everything. Shelter and togetherness are stepping-stones to recovery. If you are able, please give what you can via  ‘‘

All donations above $2 are tax-deductible, please give generously.


Partnering with ShelterBox on relief deployments

Service in Action

Rotarian Liz Odell of the Rotary Club of Nailsworth in England shares about her involvement with ShelterBox over the past seven years. Liz has participated in 16 deployments with ShelterBox as a response team volunteer. Here’s her story:

Video courtesy of Rotary International in Great Britain and Ireland

Interested in getting involved with ShelterBox, Rotary’s partner for disaster relief? Read the Rotary-ShelterBox partnership fact sheet and contact for more information.

ShelterBox is a separate organization, independent of Rotary International and The Rotary Foundation.



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SYRIA CHEMICAL INCIDENT – ShelterBox partners in Khan Sheikhoun fear more attacks, and for the safety of their team

Hand in Hand for Syria is the London-based charity that has worked for years with ShelterBox taking aid to families displaced by Syria’s civil war. Yesterday their team in Khan Sheikhoun were at the centre of the chemical weapon incident that has caused international outrage.

In recent weeks aid workers from Hand in Hand for Syria have worked across Idlib Governorate distributing shelter aid and equipment from UK-based ShelterBox. Yesterday they found themselves caught up in a chemical weapons incident that has killed at least 70 people in the town of Khan Sheikhoun, including 20 children, and horrified the watching world.

As well as acting as an in-country distributor of ShelterBox aid, Hand in Hand for Syria also runs six hospitals, health centres, mobile clinics, ambulances and other emergency vehicles.

Their Country Director Fadi Al-Dairi says, ‘One of our offices is in Khan Sheikhoun and we have two hospitals in the vicinity. After the chemical incident we saw over 70 cases, over 300 received treatment from other health actors operating in the area, and we transported quite a few to Turkey. Sadly eight were pronounced dead at our facilities.’

‘Whilst this is a tragic event, we fear the use of chemical attacks more often. We are very concerned about the safety of our team in the absence of any proper protection in place. The unavailability of gas masks, plastic overalls, plastic tents at each and every health facility means there is a risk of spreading contamination whilst trying to do good.’

The UN Security Council is meeting today in an emergency session called for by France and the UK as international outrage mounts over the incident. ShelterBox Operations Director Darren Moss says, ‘It is saddening that it takes an appalling incident, huge loss of life, innocent children suffering, and the apparent use of illegal weapons, to put the world’s focus back on Syria.’

‘ShelterBox has a long association with Hand in Hand for Syria and other partners in the region, and we are very concerned that they have to carry out their vital humanitarian work in such dangerous conditions. Our thoughts are with our brave aid colleagues, and with all those families suffering in this seemingly intractable war.’  

Hand in Hand for Syria has been delivering aid to displacement camps across norther Syria, including those nearby Khan Sheikhoun. Thus far in 2017 ShelterBox aid has been provided to 3,430 households, and to over 20,000 families since the war began. ShelterBox supporters have funded around £2.5 million worth of aid over the last five years.

You can help by DONATING HERE

Heart-breaking conversations with escapees from Mosul

ShelterBox’s Alice Jefferson has just returned from Iraq. Here in a screening and aid distribution centre south west of Mosul Airport, she met people who have just left behind one of the most intense battles on earth, still raging just a few miles away. They may have lost loved ones, their homes, their possessions. But they have escaped with their lives.

ShelterBox Operations Coordinator, Alice Jefferson in Iraq

Salamiyah is a surreal place. A former gas depot just a few miles from Mosul airport. Up to 14,000 people a day have passed through the screening site. It is the first step on a road that is taking the battle-weary of Mosul towards some sort of safety.

After security screening families receive initial basic support and their first meal. Most will then be taken by bus to camps, or, if they prefer, to relatives in the surrounding area. Aid is also being given to host families, and to communities that have also lived under two years of Islamic State rule. The flow of people through the site now requires a continuous 24 hour bus service for onward travel.

Alice spoke with a grandmother who now lives in Salamiyah village. ShelterBox respects their wishes not to be named, and in some cases not to be photographed. Despite all their hardships she was smiling and happy to discuss her situation with the team.

‘We have lived under Daesh (Islamic State) control for over two years’ the grandmother told Alice. When asked where her family is currently living she said, ‘We stay in the Institute with over a hundred other families.’ The Institute is a collective centre in the village of Salamiyah providing shelter to internally displaced families who were once held under Islamic State control. ‘I want to go home,’ she says poignantly, ‘But for now it is not possible.’

The grandmother and her family are from a nearby town called Gwer, on the banks of the Great Zab River, a strategic link between the cities of Tikrit and Mosul that flows into the Tigris. Gwer was captured by Islamic State in August 2014. Most schools were closed then, and children such as her granddaughter have missed out on education for over two years. ‘She has not been able to attend school, and there is also no schooling available here either.’

The town was retaken by the Kurdish Peshmerga forces, but the bridge and key supply route across the river was badly damaged by Islamic State fighters. Fighting has continued for months and the town is now heavily fortified.

As Alice was talking to grandmother and granddaughter another family came forward keen to tell their story. They also dared not give names, and would not be photographed. They came from Al-Shuhada, a district in Western Mosul retaken by advancing Iraqi forces on 8 March after days of heavy fighting. The mother said, ‘I was displaced just four days ago.’

Alice asked if the young boy waiting quietly by her side was her son. She said ‘Yes, I also have two daughters – three children with no father.’ Alice asked what had happened to their father. ‘Daesh have been in control for two years. Our family lived in Mosul before, but I have family that originally came from this village. Before they came into the city my husband was working with the police service, collecting intelligence on Daesh.’

She reached for her tissue and was visibly upset at the memory. ‘When the city was taken my husband was murdered by Daesh. They took him away and cut him many times. He was then thrown into the landfill. No burial.’

His brutal murder took place more than two years ago, and since then the family has had to live under the rule of the people that killed their husband and father. They escaped as soon as they could, crossing the front line into Federal Iraq-controlled areas. They were screened before being bussed south to Salamiyah, choosing to not go into the government-run displacement camps as she had family connections in the village. This support structure is vital now she has lost her husband and her home.

Alice asked if the family will return to West Mosul. ‘No it is not likely that we will return,’ she said. ‘There is nothing left for us in Mosul’.

Alice Jefferson says, ‘As the distribution continued I spoke to a number of other women in the line. A startlingly common theme began to emerge. Husbands, fathers and sons were missing.’

ShelterBox aid being distributed in Salamiyah

The danger of freezing nights has now succumbed to rainy days, where dust is quickly churned to mud underfoot, and soon there will be the prospect of annual desert storms. Iraq can have an inhospitable climate, and shelter from the strong winds is essential, not a luxury. The weather was kind when Alice and colleagues visited Salamiyah, but on the previous day planned visits had to be cancelled due to severe rainfall.


You can help those fleeing the terror in Mosul by donating today: PLEASE DONATE

What about Chad and the other forgotten humanitarian crises?

A thought provoking blog from ShelterBox CEO, Chris Warham about yet another ‘hidden’ crisis………

Chris Warham

I spent much of a career working with journalists and the media.  I watched journalists take and shape stories.  I saw the good the bad and the ugly.  Brilliant investigative journalism that exposed rogues and villains and cheap dirty journalism that twisted words to score vindictive points.  I saw political bias colour stories. I even saw fake news (to use a Trump’ism).

But I think what aggrieves me more than anything is the parochial bias of the ‘western’ (used figuratively)  national news media. If it’s not happening in one of perhaps ten countries then its not happening at all.

Last week in Oslo, the UN along with Germany and Norway hosted a conference on the incredibly difficult humanitarian crisis that is on-going in the Chad Basin in West Africa.

chad-map The Chad Basin

Oslo Humanitarian Conference for Nigeria and the Lake Chad region …

The conference heard that over the past five…

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(Cliché alert) ‘The times they are a changin’ ….

Some great insights by the CEO of ShelterBox…….

Chris Warham

…. is a familiar cliché.  But not so many know the two lines that come before it in Bob Dylan’s  iconic song.


…Then you better start swimmin’
Or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’

As 2017 comes up to full speed we are about to see as much change as anyone could wish for.  Just 4 weeks ago the siege in Aleppo was in everyone’s minds. Now its over, the Russians are apparently leaving and an uneasy truce has settled over a war that has been ever present for five years or more.

This week Prime Minister May will outline her BREXIT strategy, whilst the world will watch with ‘interest’ as President elect Trump takes the reins in Washington.

Given that USAID, the EU and the UK’s own DFiD are the world’s largest aid budgets then whatever your political views (and I express none here) this has all got…

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Aleppo and Mosul – my impatience is growing

Here’s a passionate blog post from the CEO of ShelterBox, Chris Warham…….

Chris Warham

It’s been going on for years.  We have watched TV report after TV report of bombs, bullets, mutilated children and racing ambulances.  We have heard cries from the UN and governments for humanitarian ‘pauses’, safe corridors.  Everyone but everyone but everyone knows that there will ultimately be no military solution to Syria or IS or the ethnic/religious conflict between Sunni and Shia.

So why in the early 21st century do we persist in believing that bombs, bullets, cruise missiles and gas are the answer.  In the end all parties have to talk, to accommodate, to find ways of living together (as Syrians did for so many years).

I am on no-ones ‘side’.

I am not interested in the rights and wrong

aleppo White helmets helping children in Aleppo after an airstrike (Via

s of each faction.

But I am passionate about how we help the blameless who are suffering…

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Distributing Shelter Kits To Flood-Hit Families In Chile

Torrential floods caused massive damage in the Atacama region of Chile. (John Cordell/ShelterBox)

Torrential floods caused massive damage in the Atacama region of Chile. (John Cordell/ShelterBox)

ShelterBox is working in partnership with fellow aid agency Habitat for Humanity to distribute shelter kits to people whose homes have been severely damaged by flooding in the Atacama region of Chile.

This spring, the Atacama region of Chile, which is usually one of the driest places on Earth, received more than seven years’ worth of rain in just 24 hours, causing massive damage to homes, buildings and infrastructure.

When the flooding first took place, many people moved in with host families, but now that the waters have started to recede, the focus has shifted to repairing homes.

ShelterBox has therefore decided to send 1,000 shelter kits to the region, which cannot only be used to make temporary shelters, but contain ropes, tarpaulins and tools to help clear away debris and to make repairs on structures, such as waterproofing roofs.

The kits are being distributed by Habitat for Humanity, an organisation specialising in eliminating homelessness and housing issues in countries around the world, which has been working in Chile for the last 14 years. In addition, the Chilean Red Cross and the regional government will be helping to distribute shelter kits too.

ShelterBox response team member John Cordell, who was part of a team that carried out assessments on the need for shelter in Chile, explained the benefits of using shelter kits: ‘Our work with Habitat for Humanity in Chile to provide shelter kits to people after the flooding disaster is helping to bridge the transition from an emergency response to a more enduring shelter solution.’

ShelterBox is also partnering with Habitat for Humanity elsewhere in Chile following another natural disaster. In the south of the country, the Calbuco Volcano has erupted several times, causing flows of mud and debris to damage everything in their path, while ash clouds have travelled hundreds of miles, burying houses in as much as 10 inches of ash.

A further 500 shelter kits will be distributed to families whose houses have been damaged by the volcanic activity.