No home and no possessions in Fiji

Children play in the reamins of a house on the island of Ovalau, Fiji

Children play in the remains of a house on the island of Ovalau, Fiji

 

Ovalau is the sixth largest island in Fiji. When Cyclone Winston hit the country six weeks ago, it caused widespread destruction to Ovalau and many other islands. Massive trees lie on their sides. Leaves and branches are nowhere to be seen, but broken belongings and rubble lie tangled in the devastation.

When the cyclone swept through the Tokou, a village in Ovalau that is located below sea level, people sheltered in the community centre. As they waited for the storm to pass, they saw corrugated iron fly off roofs, possessions scattered and whole homes reduced to cement foundations.

There was no way to rest in the community centre, as the cyclone created such a big storm surge that the water came up to people’s chests. Parents had to hold their children up in the air in order to keep them safe.

While these communities are resilient to the extreme weather of the South Pacific, many families are still living in emergency accommodation such as schools and community centres.

 

Diane and baby Yokimi in front of their ShelterBox tent.

Diane and baby Yokimi in front of their ShelterBox tent.

 

Diane and her family have been living in the community centre since Cyclone Winston hit. Their home was destroyed and they lost all of their possessions. It was terrifying, especially for their three-month-old child Yokimi.

With your support our ShelterBox teams were able to provide Diane and her family with a ShelterBox. The box not only contains a tent that the family will be able to stay in until they start rebuilding their home, but all of the essential items needed to help them return to normal life such as kitchen utensils, solar lights and a water filter.

For Diane and her family, a ShelterBox means relief. She said: ‘I’m so happy to have a tent – to have a safe place of our own to sleep.’

Your donations enable us to provide ShelterBoxes, tents and tools to provide shelter and help people repair damaged homes. Despite rough terrain, remote islands and further storms, our ShelterBox response teams are going the extra mile to reach people in need.

We’re making a difference in Fiji, but there are families all over the world who are living without shelter. Please donate today so that no family goes without shelter.

Desperate need for shelter in Fiji in the wake of Cyclone Winston

Cyclone devastation in Fiji

 

ShelterBox Response Teams are working across Fiji to provide shelter for families after Cyclone Winston, the worst storm ever recorded in the southern hemisphere.

The storm hit on 20 February, bringing torrential rain, wind speeds of 200 mph, and 40ft waves to the country’s 330 islands. The sheer force of the storm has obliterated up to 90% of structures and left an estimated 120,000 people without shelter.

On the island of Makogai, the villagers put on life jackets and sheltered in their homes as the winds gathered speed. As the houses began to tear apart, schoolteacher Sakaraia Balebuca and his family decided to hide underneath their raised brick floor.

As Sakaria moved to crawl under the house, one of the walls broke and crashed into him. Without the lifejacket he was wearing, Sakaria would have been crushed. More people joined the family under the brick floor until more than 40 villagers, including children and mothers with infants, were all hiding together.

When a ShelterBox response team arrived, they found the whole village sheltering in the only four buildings left standing.

 

boxes being off-loaded from a small boat

A ShelterBox Response Team delivers aid to the Fijian island of Makogai

 

Thanks to prepositioned stock in Fiji itself, as well as New Zealand and Australia, our ShelterBox response teams have already been able to deliver tents and ShelterBoxes to families on six remote islands, including Makogai. To reach these islands, we have teamed up with Sea Mercy; a charity that uses a network of luxury yachts to deliver aid and medical expertise in the South Pacific.

More aid is on its way, including 2,000 solar lights that will provide light and safety to communities without power, but it’s not enough.

There are still many tiny islands too remote to have yet received help. We need your support to send another 2,000 ShelterBoxes to reach these communities and give people like Sakaria comfort and safety.

Please help the people of Fiji today.

 

Worst Flooding In 50 Years Hits Paraguay

Thye flooded Parana River

The flooded Paraná River, which runs through Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina, has displaced hundreds of thousands of people. (Derek Locke / ShelterBox)

The scenes of devastation in Paraguay go on and on, as our ShelterBox response teams assess the need for shelter following the worst floods in 50 years. In some places this means the waters lap over flood defences built nine metres above the usual water level.
The floods, which have forced 130,000 people from their homes in the Paraguayan capital of Asuncion and the surrounding areas, have been caused by heavy El Niño rains. El Niño is a climate phenomenon that creates complex changes in weather patterns, from droughts in Australia and the Pacific, to intense rainfall across South America.

ShelterBox is working with the Paraguayan Red Cross to carry out assessments and distribute aid.

An initial shipment of 2,000 shelter kits is on its way from prepositioned stores in Panama. These shelter kits contain heavy-duty tarpaulins and tools that can be used to create emergency structures and repair damaged buildings.

ShelterBox last provided aid in Paraguay to communities deluged by floods in 2014. Shelter kits proved to be vital lifelines for many people, such as Cinecia Valdes.

Cinecia Valdes, who received a shelter kit from ShelterBox, talks about her experience of flooding in 2014.

Cinecia Valdes, who received a shelter kit from ShelterBox, talks about her experience of flooding in 2014.

We revisited 72 year-old Cinecia, who lives with her young grandchild, two months after she received a shelter kit. Before receiving the kit, she had spent several days sleeping in the street before moving to a flimsy and overcrowded emergency shelter.
However, once armed with the tools and materials included in the shelter kit, two of Cinecia’s sons were able to help repair her home once the floodwaters had receded. They used all of the tools to make the repairs and fixed a tarpaulin over her roof. This not only made the house waterproof, but provided an overhang that created shade and protection from the rain.

Cinecia told us that she was very happy with the repairs made to the house: ‘I was very satisfied with the shelter kit – it contained the things we needed.

‘It is much more tranquil at home than at the emergency shelter. It is better for me, as I have diabetes and high blood pressure.’

Our current teams in Paraguay are working hard to find families in need and give them the same tools we gave Cinecia, so that they too can feel peace and safety once more.

Your support means that we can continue to send teams of ShelterBox volunteers and more aid to places like Paraguay – please donate today.

7.5 Million Viewers For ShelterBox And LuminAID On ABC TV In US

Inventors of the Luminaid solar light inside a Shelterbx tents in Malawi, surrounded by glowing Luminaids

(L to R) Anna Stork and Andrea Sreshta with ShelterBox and luminAIDs lightening the darkness of Malawi’s floods

ShelterBox was one of the earliest backers of luminAID, an innovative solar light that is proving an essential aid item in disaster zones. Its inventors, Anna Stork and Andrea Sreshta, travelled to Malawi with ShelterBox to see luminAID being used by flood victims, in a feature shown by ABC TV to its US viewers.

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.

Five Ways A Parade/ Festival Unites The Community

ShelterBox Response team member and ShelterBox Australia Ambassador, Peita Berzins reports from The Tuggerah Lakes Mardi Gras on the Central Coast of NSW.

Shelterbox volunteers at the Mardi Gras

L-R Peter Pearce, Con Bartos, Margot Caulfield, Torben Neilsen, Peita Berzins

Yesterday ShelterBox ambassadors and The Entrance Rotary participated in the Tuggerah Lakes 63rd Mardi Gras Parade and Festival. What a great day it was, and our interactions had many mutual benefits:

1. Fun…seeing children and families and friends enjoy the parade, and the rides, stalls and entertainment. There was the visit from Santa, and later the traditional lighting of The Memorial Park Christmas Tree and the favourite renowned fireworks display.

Santa sitting on a ShelterBox

2. Belonging…the parade and festival reinforces our web of relationships, through friendship, community groups, business, schools, hobbies, sport.

The parade lines up

3. Celebrating diversity… different cultures and races, beliefs and customs on display from indigenous dancers to gym fitness instructors to surf life saving clubs to beauty queens to dance troupes to a high school marching band.

local indigenous dance troupe

4. Familiar figures the crowds love…Batman, Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia, Sponge Bob and of course Santa Claus.

Super heroes!

Super heroes!

5. Music…everyone lives to tap their feet and even join in the performances.

We put up a tent, gave away helium balloons to the children and pamphlets to the adults, held a raffle and made lots of new friends, spreading the word about our disaster relief charity.

A big thank you to President Torben Nielsen from The Entrance Rotary, and his band of willing helpers Margot Caulfield, Con Bartos and Carrol and Allan Coats. Ambassadors Joan Redmond, Peter Pearce and myself couldn’t have done it without them. A big thank you to Ivor Berzins who donated generous prizes to the raffle – four rounds of golf at Shelly Beach Golf club, and a cricket bat signed by Michael Clarke. Thank you to for The Entrance Majestic Cinemas and The Italian Cake and Coffee Shop for their sponsorship. “

www.shelterboxaustralia.org.au

Respite From The Road In Greece

 

Image of UN spec tents as supplied by ShelterBox and small camping tents brought by refugees

As thousands of people continue to make the journey to Europe from countries such as Syria, Iraq and Eritrea, ShelterBox is providing much-needed shelter on the Greek island of Lesbos – a halfway point for many weary travellers.

Earlier this month, a ShelterBox Response Team, made up of Sam Hewett (UK), Jennifer Butte-Dahl (US) and Jack Bailey (UK) travelled to the island to set up 100 tents in the Kara Tepe camp near the main port of Mytilene.

In contrast to many refugee camps, where people sometimes stay for years on end, the people passing through Lesbos and other Greek islands do not stay for long. This is just a temporary stop after long truck rides and dangerous sea crossings before continuing on to other European countries. Most families are only there for a few nights at a time, before they receive the necessary paperwork to resume their journeys, but the number of people arriving is so high that many local resources have been overwhelmed.

Response Team member Sam Hewett describes the unique situation in which the team was working: ‘On the first day I was nervous – normally you get everything in a camp set up before the intended occupants move in, and undertake tent construction like a production line. You ensure that essential services such as water and sanitation have been installed and you draw up a list of households who will move into each tent to prioritise the vulnerable.

‘But in this case, we were putting up our tents in and around people’s tiny camping tents. We couldn’t draw up a beneficiary list because groups of people arrived every half an hour or so – many with small children, pregnant women or disabled family members, while others departed each day.’

One of the households we helped was the Jejou family from Mosul in Iraq. They told the team that they left Mosul in August because of the threat posed by Daesh (Islamic State) and for the future of their children.

 

6 smiling Iraqi children in from of a tent supplied by ShelterBox

Children from the Jejou family, who travelled to Greece from Mosul, Iraq. (Credit Jennifer Butte-Dahl/ShelterBox)

 

One family member said: ‘We have suffered a lot and lost everything. We are Christians, and Christians are all being killed by Daesh in Iraq. Churches are being destroyed and Daesh kidnapped some of our relatives. Two children in our extended family were killed by missiles.’

They carried on to explain that they travelled to Greece with five other families. There were 40 people in total and they all went in one boat. The motor died in the middle of the sea, but thankfully they managed to fix it and continue.

The experience of the journey has made a big impact on the family’s three children. The parents told us: ‘They’ve lost their manners. Every day we move to a new place, meet new people. They are learning bad habits. Their days have no structure and there is no controlled environment. The children want to get back to school and we want them back in school as well.’

However, in the short time that the family were on the island of Lesbos, they were able to have a brief rest in a secure environment, thanks to ShelterBox.

They said: ‘The tent is big – we can put our luggage inside to keep it safe and the whole family can live in this tent. This tent provides shelter for us and it is a safe space.’

Hundreds of others, just like the Jejou family, have been able to rest in somewhere safe and comfortable thanks to ShelterBox. An item as simple as a tent is not only providing shelter, but much-needed security, in the midst of many harrowing journeys.

ShelterBox Team Carries Out Assessments In Tanzania

Refugees who have left Burundi due to political conflict travel by boat to Port Kiblizi in neighbouring Tanzania. (Todd Finklestone/ShelterBox)

Refugees who have left Burundi due to political conflict travel by boat to Port Kiblizi in neighbouring Tanzania. (Todd Finklestone/ShelterBox)

 

A ShelterBox response team is currently in Tanzania to assess how we can support refugee camps as political violence in neighbouring Burundi causes 120,000 people to flee the country.
Burundi was thrown into turmoil when the president of the East African country made a bid for a third five-year term in office, which is said to be a violation of the peace deal that ended 13 years of civil war in 2006. This announcement has caused massive political unrest, leading to more than 70 people being killed and hundreds more wounded in opposition protests.
The violence has led tens of thousands of people to cross the border and seek refuge in neighbouring countries. More than 50,000 people have now arrived in Tanzania since the conflict began.
A ShelterBox team, made up of Todd Finklestone (US) and Budge Pountney (UK) are in Tanzania to see how ShelterBox can assist in the extension of the well-established, and now overcrowded, Nyarugusu refugee camp to provide adequate shelter for families arriving in the country.
Earlier this week, the team went to the region of Kigoma near the border with Burundi where many people enter the country on boats run by the Organization for Migration (IOM).
Todd said: ‘Each day, 120 refugees are entering Tanzania through this southern border crossing, excluding the amount of refugees coming from further north.
‘The election in Burundi takes place on 15 July and crossings into Tanzania are expected to increase in the next few weeks.’
The ShelterBox operations team is also looking at the possibility of working with the International Organisation of Migration to bring shelter to the thousands of people who have left their homes but still remain in Burundi.
You can help by donating here: PLEASE DONATE

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.

 

Rotary International Convention 2015, Sao Paula

Rotary International logoShelterBox had a strong presence at the Rotary International Convention, held in Sao Paulo, Brazil. ShelterBox HQ staff, affiliate and Response Team volunteers were on hand to answer questions from Rotarians from around the world.

Throughout the weekend, a video was played to demonstrate the relationship between ShelterBox and Rotary and how the partnership has helped to reach and shelter people following the Nepal earthquakes. You can watch it here: