Helping Communities Survive The Next Storm In The Philippines


Recipients of a shelter from our project with Handicap International (Toby Ash/ShelterBox)

Recipients of a shelter from our project with Handicap International (Toby Ash/ShelterBox)

‘After surviving Typhoon Haiyan, we had to cope with three more typhoons. But now that we have moved into our new shelter, I know my family is finally safe.’ These are the words of Anna Lisa Calvadores, a young mother who lives in small, tight knit community on an exposed hillside in Eastern Samar in the Philippines. 
Toby Ash who is the Philippines country coordinator for ShelterBox, recently met some of the people who are involved with ShelterBox’s projects to create resilient ‘transitional’ shelters in the country following the damage caused by Typhoon Haiyan.
For more than a year, Anna Lisa and her family lived in a tiny, makeshift shelter cobbled together from tarpaulins and materials salvaged from her old home, which was completely destroyed when Typhoon Haiyan ripped through the country in November 2013.

The typhoon was one of the strongest storms ever recorded and destroyed not only homes and buildings, but people’s livelihoods too, leaving them without the income to start rebuilding. She and other vulnerable families are now moving into safe, resilient shelters being built by ShelterBox and our project partners across areas hardest hit by the disaster.

Anna Lisa Calvadores, who has recieved a new 'transitional shelter' as part of one of ShelterBox's projects in the Philippines. (Toby Ash/ShelterBox)

Anna Lisa Calvadores, who has received a new ‘transitional shelter’ as part of one of ShelterBox’s projects in the Philippines. (Toby Ash/ShelterBox)

The generosity of our donors following the extraordinary scale of destruction wrought by Haiyan has enabled us to continue our assistance to those who lost their homes. Working in partnership with four larger international aid agencies, ACTED, Handicap International, Islamic Relief and Catholic Relief Services (CRS), we are constructing almost 1,700 ‘transitional’ shelters, made largely from locally sourced materials. We are working in Eastern Samar, where Haiyan first hit landfall, in Leyte, close to the devastated city of Tacloban, and on the island of Bantayan.
In addition to the creation of the shelters themselves, the projects promote a wider understanding of how communities can best protect themselves in the future by passing on, and training carpenters in, techniques to rebuild safer shelters. In this way, communities are taking an active role in the recovery process and helping themselves to become more resilient to future disasters.
One such carpenter is 50 year old Nilo Visto, from the municipality of Alang Alang in northern Leyte, who underwent 15 days of training as part of the project we are carrying out with our implementing partner ACTED. He now has a certificate from the Philippines’s Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) after demonstrating his knowledge of safe building practices. Since graduation, Nilo has helped construct 20 strong shelters for us in his village. With his newfound skills, Nilo believes that he will be able to find more regular work to help support his family and also be able to assist his neighbours rebuild safely.
Nilo Visto, who now has a certificate in safe building practices as part of  the project ShelterBox is carrying out with our implementing partner ACTED.  (ACTED/ShelterBox)

Nilo Visto, who now has a certificate in safe building practices as part of the project ShelterBox is carrying out with our implementing partner ACTED. (ACTED/ShelterBox)

The shelter projects we are supporting target the most vulnerable of society – often the elderly, physically challenged and families who have limited capacity to recover on their own. Other members of the community are often happy to help out with the construction work even though they will not be beneficiaries themselves. In Anna Lisa’s village, where we are supporting the work of CRS, we found a large group of residents busy making gravel from large boulders, which will be used in the foundations.
The projects we are undertaking also engage the wider community in build back safer awareness activities, from catchy build back safer songs to house-to-house visits. These activities clearly paid dividends in December last year when Typhoon Hagupit struck areas we are working in. This time they were far better prepared, with many households tying down their shelters and reinforcing their roofs in the hours before the storm hit. None of our newly built shelters sustained any damage.
The reality of climate change is that super typhoons such as Haiyan are no longer one off events. So far this year, the Philippines has already endured three powerful typhoons. Our continued engagement is helping to ensure they are better able to withstand extreme weather events in the future, minimising not only the future risk to life, but also the need for us to return with emergency aid in the years to come.

‘Rice, Sugar and Salt’ – Lessons learned from seven months in the Philippines.

Typhoon Haiyan Remembered


Toby Ash is the Philippines country coordinator for ShelterBox and has, along with our four project partners, been working to help construct almost 1,700 shelters for families affected by Typhoon Haiyan, which struck one year ago this week. In this personal reflection from Toby we hear about the difference ShelterBox is making in the region thanks to the support of our donors from around the world. 

‘When are you moving in?’ I asked a beneficiary of one of our newly built shelters yesterday. ‘Not until we’ve brought good luck to our new home,’ she replied. ‘The first things we bring in are containers of sugar, rice and salt. Then we will plant a Kalipayan (‘happiness’) tree by the foundations. Only then can we move in’.

So, yesterday was much like every other day of the last seven months I have spent here in the Philippines – it was a day of learning. I arrived here at the tail end of the emergency phase, some five months after Typhoon Haiyan ripped through the country leaving more than 6,000 dead and a million homes destroyed. By April the basic needs of those affected had been largely met – most had access to some basic shelter to protect them from the elements. But travelling through the great swathe of the country that was affected, it was clear that the future of many of the Haiyan’s survivors remained precarious – the road to recovery would be long and difficult, and many would not be able to get there without further assistance.

ShelterBox was one of the leading international shelter agencies that responded to the typhoon last November. Over the course of more than five months we helped almost 7,000 households with more than 100 ShelterBox response team members distributing boxes, tents, shelter kits, solar lamps, water purification systems and other desperately needed equipment.

In many disasters, the provision of a tent and other household items are all that is required for those affected to start rebuilding their lives. But the scale of the damage wrought by Haiyan has made the process of recovery much more difficult. The typhoon destroyed millions of coconut trees, rice fields and thousands of fishing boats, leaving those who depend on them for their living without any income. And with no income there can be no rebuilding. Even those able to eke out a living are faced with the stark choice of having to put food on the table and sending their children to school or buying building materials. Then, of course there are society’s most vulnerable. How does a frail, elderly woman rebuild her home by herself?


Philippines country coordinator, Toby Ash (pictured center) in the Philippines

Philippines country coordinator, Toby Ash (pictured center) in the Philippines


Once the frenzy of the emergency phase had calmed, we began to look at how we might be able to continue our assistance to help these survivors recover from this devastating and traumatic event. I travelled extensively across the typhoon hit areas in a bid to better understand the needs of those affected and to look at how we could assist the most vulnerable, building on our legacy from the emergency stage.

Given our limited operational resources in the country, a key goal has been to identify project partners to help us continue with our work. The initial ground work on this was done by Sam Hewett, one of our operational co-ordinators who oversaw the emergency response in the early part of the year. Myself and Jo Reid, our projects consultant at HQ, followed a strict and rigorous criteria for selecting our partners that examined every aspect of their proposals including the nature of the shelter project, its location, the partner’s track record and the likely speed of completion.

Over the course of the summer we signed partnership agreements with four large international aid organisations – ACTED, Handicap International, Islamic Relief and Catholic Relief Services. In total we will be building almost 1,700 transitional shelters built mainly of locally sourced materials in four separate locations badly affected by the typhoon. Although not permanent, they are designed and built to be resilient. Each will meet the ‘build back safer’ guidelines as recommended by the International Federation of the Red Cross’ (IRFC’s) shelter technical team here.

But in many ways these projects are bigger than the individual shelters themselves. We are working with our partners to create shelters that can serve as exemplars of safe building practice in the communities they are built in over the coming months and years. Moreover, we are directly training carpenters and engaging the wide community in safer building practices, with the goal of leaving them better prepared for natural disasters in the future.

I have been a ShelterBox response team member for six years now and have delivered ShelterBoxes to many far flung places across the world. The last few months has been a different ShelterBox experience, but one that has been equally rewarding. Last week we handed over a specially adapted shelter to Conchita Suamer, a frail 89 year old woman, that will allow her to live in dignity after months in a tiny shack cobbled together from rusty lengths of corrugated iron. At this stage in the disaster, almost a year after the typhoon struck, a tent would be not be the right shelter solution for her. But the shelter we have built for her and her family is.

ShelterBox’s response to the calamity that hit this part of the Philippines last year, has been its most complicated and multi-faceted to date. Institutionally it has been a learning process, but one which will hold us in good stead in tackling the complex shelter issues that will invariably be thrown our way in the future. And what I have learnt? Many, many things but first and foremost, what a wonderful country the Philippines is and how warm-natured and resilient its people are. And of course to have a container of rice, sugar and salt in my home, and a ‘happiness’ tree planted close to its foundations.

To donate to ShelterBox please click here: PLEASE DONATE

Keep an eye out for #GivingTuesday

Typhoon Haiyan Remembered – Partnerships & Innovation

Typhoon Haiyan RememberedWhen Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines almost a year ago, experts called it ‘a true one hundred year event.’ As other charities and the world’s media descended upon Tacloban, ShelterBox concentrated its efforts upon trying to reach the more remote islands, assisting families whose livelihoods had been destroyed by the storm and for whom there seemed little hope of help. 

As has been the case in the past, offers of assistance for logistics began to trickle in to ShelterBox’s operation team and before long the offer of freight from Dubai to the Philippines was made to the team. Upon consultation and examination of the situation, ShelterBox’s logistics experts decided that sending tents would be the more effective first response aid, which was then followed by ShelterBoxes and other aid items. Several teams were deployed at once and soon ShelterBox had established a vast network of response teams operating across several islands working to get aid to families as fast as was possible under the challenging conditions.

As the momentum of ShelterBox’s response grew, and as a result of our donors overwhelming support, we took great pride in reporting stories of beneficiaries moving into ShelterBox tents. However it quickly became clear to us that a longer-term commitment was needed to fully accomplish what donors had entrusted us to achieve.

After around three months the need for tents for emergency shelter in the region was diminishing, but there remained a need for humanitarian assistance for these communities left still reeling from the devastation of the disaster.

Families move into their new homes in the Philippines Photo: Toby Ash/ShelterBox.

Families move into their new homes in the Philippines Photo: Toby Ash/ShelterBox.


Thanks to the generosity of our donors, we have maintained our commitment to the Philippines and are extending the type of help we are able to offer these communities. As we strive to develop into a global leader in shelter provision, we are embracing new ways of responding to the needs of communities affected by disasters. And so it was that alongside tents, ShelterBox response teams also began to distribute Shelter Repair Kits containing tools, tarpaulins and fixings to help beneficiaries begin the process of rebuilding their homes.

Working in collaboration 

ShelterBox recognises that shelter is a process, not a product. So we began to investigate opportunities to collaborate with partners in the Philippines who could help us continue our commitment to helping families affected by Haiyan, several months after the Typhoon had first struck.

After a careful assessment process, we entered into four project partnerships with leading international agencies including ACTED (Agency for Technical Cooperation and Development), Handicap International, Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and Islamic Relief Worldwide (IRW) which will lead to the construction of nearly 1,700 ‘core transitional’ shelters.

Designed to house a single family, the shelters are being constructed using locally sourced materials, wherever possible, in areas that were in the path of Typhoon Haiyan: in Eastern Samar, where the typhoon first made landfall; in northern Leyte, close to the devastated city of Tacloban; and on the island of Bantayan, in northern Cebu. In each community, a rigorous beneficiary selection process has ensured that we prioritise the most vulnerable.

This will not only provide more than 8,000 vulnerable people with a safe, durable home but will also help to train the wider community in how to ‘build back safer’ as the shelters are designed to withstand further storms. The overall goal being to develop resilience in the region to future disasters.

‘How could we turn our backs when there is so much still to do to help these families rebuild their lives and their homes?’ said ShelterBox Chief Executive Alison Wallace. ‘Our generous donors have given ShelterBox the resources and the mandate to continue, so we are responding by adapting the practical help we offer.’

As we approach the one-year anniversary of Typhoon Haiyan we thank everyone who donated to our appeal and our thoughts are with everyone who was affected by the disaster.

‘Rebuilding Likely To Take Years’ In Philippines

Response Team volunteer Marie Vincent with members of the Esperanza family and some of the other villagers in Cancajara, Leyte, Philippines, January 2014.

Response Team volunteer Marie Vincent with members of the Esperanza family and some of the other villagers in Cancajara, Leyte, Philippines, January 2014.


‘The immense devastation on Leyte island is difficult to comprehend,’ said ShelterBox Response Team (SRT) member Marie Vincent. ‘At first glance when you scratch the surface you soon learn that the typhoon also destroyed people’s livelihoods and has left the survivors with traumatic psychological scars. There are children who cannot make eye contact, individuals who are struggling to find the motivation to move on and an underlying anxiety that it will happen again. The economical and human recovery will take years rather than months.’
It may be nearly three months since Typhoon Haiyan swept through the Philippines but the people have far from forgotten. Aid agencies like ShelterBox are still finding pockets of previously unrecognised need to address and continue to bring shelter and vital aid to communities who have been left with nothing.
‘As the scale of the disaster area is so vast, we’ve been working in partnership with other organisations to join resources and maximise our combined reach,’ said SRT member Steve Crabtree. ‘In this instance we joined up with Handicap International (HI) who were already assessing some hard-to-reach areas to the west and south of Tacloban, on the island of Leyte.’
One of the villages where ShelterBox and HI have been working together is Cancajara in the Pastrana municipality. It is a deeply rural area where the main source of income is agriculture though the local cocoa plantations have suffered heavily from the storm. As a result, rebuilding is likely to take years for a family.
Tacloban still in devastation after Typhoon Haiyan, Leyte, Philippines, January 2014.

Tacloban still in devastation after Typhoon Haiyan, Leyte, Philippines, January 2014.


This is the case for the Esperanza family. 80-year-old Dora is a mother of two still caring for her sons who are both in their fifties and work as rice and cocoa farmers. They had lost their home in the storm and had built a dangerously unstable makeshift shelter that did not meet the minimum humanitarian needs requirements. This is where ShelterBox came in.
‘Regain sense of normalcy’
Sophie Meingast is Handicap International’s Project Manager in their Emergency Response Division:
‘Providing a ShelterBox as emergency shelter following typhoon Yolanda has been great for the most vulnerable households,’ said Sophie Meingast, HI’s Emergency Response Division’s Project Manager. ‘Including items such as kitchen sets and toys for the children in the box allows families to regain a sense of normalcy following the catastrophe.’
Marie added, ‘In Pastrana we distributed ShelterBox aid to some of the most vulnerable families. This may only be a small contribution to the overall recovery but the family hugely appreciated the help. One of the sons kept repeating ‘salamat, salamat, salamat’ meaning ‘thank you, thank you, thank you’. It is important to pass on this thanks to our donors.’
Thank you
On behalf of the families in the Philippines, we would like to say a big thank you to all of our donors and supporters who have helped us bring shelter and other vital aid to nearly 4,500 families. Thank you!



Haiti Suffers Further Blows Following Hurricane Sandy

Families move into ShelterBox tents in Haiti.

Families move into ShelterBox tents in Haiti.


Hurricane Sandy wreaked widespread devastation upon New York, USA but also left a trail of destruction through many islands in the Caribbean. Its timing could not have been worse either. Not only did Tropical Storm Isaac strike just a couple of months before but Haiti was, and still is, recovering from the 2010 earthquake that left over two million homeless and led to a widespread outbreak of cholera and food shortages. This complex environment made it challenging for the ShelterBox Response Team (SRT) that assessed the need following Sandy. 

‘It became clear fairly early on that ShelterBox-led distributions would not be practical or effective,’ said SRT member James Webb (UK). ‘Working through partners who have a thorough knowledge of the country’s geography and good understanding of Haiti’s long-term recovery, was a more appropriate method of working. We therefore decided to work with International Organization for Migration (IOM) and Handicap International (HI), who continue to distribute ShelterBoxes prepositioned in the capital Port-au-Prince to families in need.’

Jean-Luc Grossoleil is the Chef de Mission in Haiti for Hl:

‘After Sandy, the majority of families were hosted by neighbours or relatives while others tried to build small shelters made with palm branches. These families, isolated and facing hard living conditions, have been targeted in priority. Through the support of ShelterBox, HI distributed tents to households having lost their homes and belongings.

‘Return to their land’

‘While much remains to be done to help these people in depth, this timely assistance has allowed them to retrieve some of their dignity. After the distribution, a significant number of beneficiaries expressed their relief as they were also able to return to their land.’

One beneficiary who refused to be named said: ‘When Sandy hit there was heavy rain and sudden gusts of wind. After three hours my house began to crack. My wife and I began to pray as our children cried. We wanted to call for help but we didn’t have a mobile phone. At the end of the night, a big part of our house collapsed and we lost five children and some animals.

‘We [ten people] were forced to live under a tarpaulin for several weeks before we received a ShelterBox. We now have a safe place for sleeping every night and to recover a normal life.’

Read more here: HAITI

Haiti Three Years On

Family made homeless by Haiti's 2010 earthquake, Port-au-Prince.

Family made homeless by Haiti’s 2010 earthquake, Port-au-Prince.


The 7.0-magnitude earthquake that hit Haiti three years ago left 1.5 million homeless, injured around 300,000 people and left over 230,000 dead. An already delicate population fell into disaster. 

The first ShelterBox Response Team (SRT) was mobilised 12 minutes after the quake struck and 900 boxes were dispatched immediately.

The deployment went on to be the biggest, longest and most complex in the history of the international disaster relief charity. Nearly 28,500 ShelterBoxes were distributed to families in need.

Due to the enormous scale of the disaster, working with partners on the ground including Haiti’s Rotary clubs and Scouts was key for ShelterBox to respond as quickly and effectively as it could.


Three years later, the people of Haiti are still suffering having been hit by Tropical Storm Isaac and more recently Hurricane Sandy.

SRT member James Webb (UK) was deployed to Haiti in 2010 but also more recently in November in response to Sandy. He is encouraged by the country’s progress over the past three years but says there are still issues that need to be addressed:

ShelterBox continues its disaster relief efforts in Haiti following Hurricane Sandy and is working with Handicap International (HI).

‘When I was deployed to Haiti after Sandy we liaised with a number of partners including HI, who has had a permanent presence there since the earthquake working on various projects ranging from development to disaster response,’ said James.


‘Through HI and using their local knowledge, we are currently distributing our aid to the most vulnerable families living in very remote areas who have lost everything.

‘Following the 2010 quake, we prepositioned ShelterBoxes in a warehouse managed by the International Organization for Migration. This means every time a disaster strikes Haiti, we have emergency shelter and other lifesaving equipment immediately available that helps us act much quicker and reach families in a much shorter time.’

ShelterBox Collaborates in Haiti to Help Displaced


Around 18,000 homes were flooded, damaged or destroyed in Haiti following Hurricane Sandy, according to the United Nations.

Around 18,000 homes were flooded, damaged or destroyed in Haiti following Hurricane Sandy, according to the United Nations.


A ShelterBox Response Team (SRT) is returning from Haiti after two weeks of assessing the need for emergency shelter and working with partners to coordinate distributions across the country. 

Liaising with Handicap International, SRT members James Webb (UK) and Josh Mohr (US) recently travelled to Fond Verrettes, an area near the Dominican Republic border, where an entire town was covered in rubble after Hurricane Sandy caused a flash flood that tore it apart.

‘The damage caused was unimaginable,’ said James. ‘The lower level of the town was under at least a foot of rubble, resulting in hundreds of homes being destroyed or damaged.’

The SRT met with members of the community who described how they had been evacuated to a local shelter when the hurricane hit but after leaving found they had no homes to return to.

‘Lost everything’ 

‘The families have lost everything and have been through so much.’

The team also accompanied Handicap International to Babaco, a community in nearby Ganthier, which had also been hit by the Hurricane.

Read more here: HAITI