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:

https://www.shelterboxaustralia.org.au/volunteer-with-us/

 

Nepalese Rotaract member witnesses ShelterBox aid from both sides

Anisha Thapaliya is a student from Nepal, studying nursing at Curtin University. Anisha was recently awarded a ‘Friends of Rotary’ membership badge by the Rotary Club South Perth-Burswood for her help with club projects, including attending every day of the recent Perth Royal Show representing ShelterBox.

Past District Governor D 9465, Melodie Kevan with Anisha and the President of the Rotary Club of South Perth- Burswood, June Wade

Past District Governor D9465, Melodie Kevan with Anisha and the President of the Rotary Club of South Perth-Burswood and ShelterBox Australia Ambassador, June Wade.

Below, Anisha tells her story of how she became aware of ShelterBox and how she experienced both sides of the disaster relief coin.

When two major earthquakes hit Nepal in 2015, I was working as a nurse in a teaching hospital. Everyone worked tirelessly to help people who were victims of the earthquake and who had suffered loss of family members and homes. I visited a couple of villages for distribution of relief materials through the Rotaract Club of Kathmandu University School of Medical Sciences (KUSMS). It was amazing to see people working with great efforts to support each other. There were large numbers of international volunteers with great supplies of relief materials, food, tarpaulins and utensils, and health services. The incident left me with a question. “How do they get supplies to distribute for free to those in need? Are they that rich?’

ShelterBox ShelterKits being distributed in Nepal

ShelterBox ShelterKits being distributed in Nepal following the 2015 earthquakes

Then I came to Australia for my further studies and luckily got the chance to meet with Rotarians from the Rotary Club of South Perth-Burswood, Perth, Western Australia. I was very happy when I got the opportunity to volunteer for fundraising programme for disaster relief package – The ShelterBox. It was very special to me because I had heard Rotaractors mentioning ShelterBox during the earthquake relief programme in Nepal.’

‘My questions were answered at the Perth Royal Show when I volunteered for fundraising. I realised that people have big hearts and great empathy, which enables them to raise money to buy the stuff needed for disaster relief. They are not rich with money but with a feeling of wanting to help others.’

Anisha at The Perth Royal Show

Anisha at The Perth Royal Show

‘And ShelterBox, what a great idea and effort! Tent, stove, sleeping bags and a lot more that a family needs when displaced. I have no words to express how lucky I am to see the other end of the help offered.

I am very thankful to the Rotary Club of South Perth-Burswood for providing me with a great chance to know and volunteer for ShelterBox, a great way to help disaster victims restore their shelter and dignity.’

To learn more about ShelterBox or to donate, please visit: www.shelterboxaustralia.org.au

Local People Help ShelterBox in Lebanon

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

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

 

It’s the two-year anniversary of the start of the Syria unrest. It began on 15 March 2011 with nationwide protests following arrests in the southern city of Deraa. Up to 70,000 people have been killed in Syria and over one million have fled their homes and are now left with nothing. 

Of the five countries currently hosting Syrian refugees the small nation of Lebanon is hosting the highest number. According to its President, Mr. Michel Suleiman, one in four people in his country is now a refugee. At the request of the government, ShelterBox has been helping the more vulnerable families in the country. To do so, ShelterBox Response Teams (SRTs) have been working with a large number of local implementing partners to assist a refugee population that is growing at a rate of 2,000 per day.

SRTs have been collaborating with 27 implementing partners throughout Lebanon. They were introduced to each other by Rotaractor Belal al Ayoubi who has been providing invaluable assistance to ShelterBox’s responses in Lebanon and in Iraq.

Each group is based in its own community and most have been doing humanitarian work since before the conflict began over two years ago. They keep detailed records, updated daily, of the refugees staying in their areas. This information has helped ShelterBox bring emergency winterised shelter to those people most in need.

The implementing partners include Scout groups, municipalities, grassroots non-governmental organisations and Lebanese families. Through their assistance, ShelterBox has been able to focus on families whose members have serious vulnerabilities including chronic illnesses, injuries, pregnancies and extremes of age.

Read more here: LEBANON