There’s a great new post on the Rotary Service in Action blog about our latest deployment to Malawi ….
Ritta and Dorica both lost their homes when floods destroyed their village in Chickwawa, Malawi. They lost their bedding, their farming tools and all of their food – everything but the clothes they were wearing.
Thankfully, we were able to provide them and their neighbours with ShelterBoxes filled with all of the essentials to replace what they’d lost, from a sturdy, family-sized tent to kitchen utensils and blankets.
One of the items they found particularly useful was the LuminAID solar light, which can last for up to 16 hours on one charge. The inflatable design means that it is waterproof, can float and is light enough for even a small child to carry.
In this video, we see the villagers receiving their LuminAIDs and learn how something as simple as a solar light makes such a difference to the lives of people like Ritta and Dorica:
You can help people like Ritta and Dorrica by donating here: PLEASE DONATE
ShelterBox delivers aid all over the world, and occasionally radio and TV stations connect with its Response Teams, and newspapers and photojournalists cover its work in disasters and conflicts.
But rarely does ShelterBox have a shop window to an audience of 7.5 million. This happened last Friday on America’s ABC programme ‘Shark Tank’.
Architecture and engineering design graduates Andrea Sreshta and Anna Stork first appeared on ‘Shark Tank’ in early 2015 seeking backing for their compact, waterproof solar-powered light named luminAID. The product was an instant hit, and with five offers on the table (a rare event on the Emmy award-winning programme) Andrea and Anna eventually cut a valuable deal with sports, movie and cable TV mogul, billionaire Mark Cuban.
As early as 2011 ShelterBox had spotted luminAID’s potential in disaster areas where power lines have gone down. Impressed with its weight, size and durability, the charity became an early investor, including the LED lights in its standard ShelterBox contents. 50 luminAID packages can fit into the same space that eight torches would occupy. Its unique inflatable diffuser makes it ideal in wet conditions such as floods and storms.
At the end of last year ‘Shark Tank’ broadcasters ABC were in contact with Alan Monroe of ShelterBox USA, interested in filming Andrea and Anna on deployment with ShelterBox. Arrangements were made for them to travel to Malawi – the scene of massive floods in 2015 with hundreds of thousands of families displaced – to see LuminAID in action, lightening the darkness for people who had lost all their possessions to floodwaters.
Alan Monroe hosted the deployment and ShelterBox videographer Liv Williams filmed the Malawi sequences within the episode, allowing us to produce broadcast quality footage in-house and on deployment for the the ABC network. It produced a very moving piece, with warm welcomes from smiling beneficiaries.
Rob Mills, ABC Television’s Senior Vice President of Alternative Series, Specials & Late Night, says, ‘Shark Tank thrives on discovering and supporting innovative businesses and products. It was a privilege to follow luminAID into the field and see it being used as part of an aid package by ShelterBox to help victims of flooding in Malawi, Africa. It is always good when there is a link between invention, investment and improving the lives of people in need.’
luminAID is a multi-award winner, including the 2013 Clean Energy Challenge, the 2014 Toyota ‘Mothers of Invention’, and a prize at the Chicago Innovation Awards. Last summer it was also featured in a White House showcase for technological and scientific achievements hosted by President Obama.
ShelterBox CEO Alison Wallace says, ‘ShelterBox continually scans the market for products that will help families overwhelmed by disaster. luminAID is a very clever product, and we are pleased to have been among its earliest backers. I’m not at all surprised that Anna and Andrea won support on American Dragon’s Den, and we’ll be watching these young inventors to see what they come up with next.’
Watch ShelterBox on ABC’s Shark Tank here:
Read more about LuminAID here.
The sun sets quickly in Malawi. There is little twilight and it gets dark all of a sudden. For many people living without regular access to electricity, this darkness is complete and can hold many dangers.
This is why we provided LuminAIDs to people who had lost their homes during the monsoon rains and floods that swept through the country almost a year ago. LuminAIDs are lightweight, inflatable solar lights that can provide up to 16 hours of light on just one charge and we pack them in every ShelterBox we send out.
William Namakoka and his family, from the Malawian district of Zomba, received help from ShelterBox when waist-deep floodwater completely destroyed their mud brick house.
It took four months for the waters to recede enough for the family to be able to move their ShelterBox tent to the site of their old house and to start picking up the routine of daily life again.
As the family save for the materials to be able to rebuild their home, the contents of the ShelterBox they received have become incredibly important to them, particularly the LuminAIDs.
William said: ‘As well as using the solar lights to work and cook by inside the tent, we also use them to guide the way to the toilet at night. There are snakes around and light helps us to avoid them and stay safe.’
William has built a pit latrine for the family using the tools provided inside his ShelterBox. In the dark, the journey from the tent to the latrine is full of many dangers. The monsoon months, from December to February, bring deadly snakes such as black mambas. Outdoor latrines and the rubble of destroyed homes like William’s provide the perfect place for mambas to nest.
The solar lights are also waterproof and float, so the family will still be able to have light even if the floodwaters return.
In the pitch black, these clever LuminAIDs not only have the ability to brighten someone’s life, but to safeguard them too.
People in Malawi receive LuminAID solar lights
We need your help to pack every ShelterBox with solar lights, to make sure that no family is left in the dark this winter. Please donate now.
During our recent response in Malawi to extreme rainfall and flooding, which destroyed many homes and left others uninhabitable, ShelterBox provided a mixture of aid items tailored to the needs of each community.
When intense rainfall at the start of the year caused some of the worst floods Malawi had seen in more than 40 years, ShelterBox started a response that lasted almost three months. In that time, the response teams not only worked hard to find vulnerable families that had completely lost their homes, but also those who needed assistance in repairing and waterproofing damaged homes.
In this video, ShelterBox response team member Rachel Harvey shows us how the teams identified people who would benefit from shelter kits, which contain items such as tarpaulins, nails and tools, to help people repair damaged structures as well as make temporary shelters if needed too.
Rachel and her team also visited one of the recipients of a shelter kit to see how useful it had been. While they were there, they were able to help make a few adjustments to ensure that the family’s new tarpaulin roof would remain secure and waterproof.
During our response in Malawi, we were able to provide shelter to almost 2,000 families in total (including 1,224 ShelterBoxes)
Australian SRT volunteer, Jeff Barnard from Valla Beach, NSW reports from his first deployment, to flood-hit Malawi.
“Zikomo (thank you) Malawi” for your hospitality and warmth.
The local people I worked with on deployment with ShelterBox displayed a level of generosity rarely seen in people who own many possessions. Days were long, beginning by collecting local Red Cross volunteers and others from Govt buildings and loading up the 4×4 vehicles for the long, rough journey to isolated villages. Working with true empathy for their countrymen’s plight, with little to no financial gain, I have the greatest respect for them all. Malawi, while landlocked in the heart of Africa, is about one-quarter covered by Lake Malawi. The area my team worked appeared to be the flood plain which links the massive lake to the Zambezi river in Mozambique. The level of destruction and need in the small villages is staggering, particularly given the lack of international media attention. I am told, it is estimated that 200,000 people have been left homeless. So many mud homes reduced to a pile of soil, which, for want of a better solution, now supports a healthy crop of corn while families take refuge in the schools and churches. A bag of cement costs less than $1.50 here, but this is a luxury these people cannot afford. Therefore their mud homes, made solely of the silty soil, are washed away by heavy rains and flooding.
Initially, we continued to focus on shelter in the form of camps, often located in the school grounds, due to people’s home sites remaining flooded. However, as the ground dried, the change to home deployment occurred, aiming to free up the schools so that the children may resume normality. While far more time-consuming and physically demanding, locating people at their home sites also saves the long walk to and from their crops each day to tend them. I will remember the huge smiles of stunning women navigating the rough tracks which link villages, often carrying large bags of food balanced on their head, a small child strapped to their backs with a colourful sheet of cloth. These tracks wind through corn fields (the staple food made into a flour, then cooked to become firm, like mashed potato), with occasional tobacco, sunflowers, and rice. Seemingly all small farms with grassed roofed, mud huts dotted throughout. 80% of the population (13 mill) work in this subsistence sector, while the rest primarily in the processing of the crops.
Probably the most obvious shock coming from collecting beneficiary data is the clear effects of HIV on the family make up in many villages. So many single mothers or grandmothers caring for 5 – 9 grandchildren, some sadly also on medication for the illness. The most difficult decision is in determining the most vulnerable as limited shelter will not go close to meeting the needs of each community.
Life is harsh, but people are tough, simple things light up the faces of these poorest of people. A hand shake awakens a grin from the heart and laugh from the belly. Banter between the men and women have them slapping knees and gossiping wildly. An empty 500 ml water container handed to a child makes their week, and has them running to show friends. A boiled egg given to a small child is shared between 6 siblings. I do not remember being asked for anything once in my time there, but the Zikomo,s (thank-yous) were everywhere, along with spontaneous clapping of homeless women realising they may receive shelter.
You can support ShelterBox’s efforts in places like Malawi by donating here: PLEASE DONATE
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.
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.
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