ShelterBox aid arrives in Ecuador, Japan

(Video of an early report on both stricken nations.)

ShelterBox logoShelterBox was among the first non-governmental agencies (NGOs) to get aid to those made homeless by recent earthquakes in Ecuador and Japan.

Two quakes in Japan and one in Ecuador killed hundreds of people, injured thousands, and caused billions of dollars in damage late last week. Within 48 hours, an assessment team arrived to begin coordinating efforts. ShelterBox already had aid positioned in neighboring Colombia, as well as in Panama and Bolivia, which can be quickly transported into the country, but when such efforts are undertaken donations are needed to immediately replace the equipment so the organization remains able to respond to the inevitability of disasters elsewhere.

In Ecuador, the 7.8-magnitude quake that struck Saturday night killed more than 400 people, with 2,500 injured. Those figures are expected to rise as rescue and recovery efforts continue.

In Japan, the quakes hit the southwestern part of the country, killing dozens and causing landslides that obliterated homes, businesses, and highways.

In addition to ShelterBox, Rotary District 4400 in Ecuador and District 2720 in Japan have each created a disaster relief fund to coordinate other types of donations and in-kind aid.

At any one time, ShelterBox is juggling multiple active relief efforts. For example, even before the most recent Ecuador and Japan disasters, it was working in Madagascar and Bolivia after both were devastated by massive landslides and flooding.

Our club already has made its 2015-16 contribution to purchase five ShelterBoxes (at $1,000 each) this year, but obviously there is no limit to what we can contribute. If you have not donated to ShelterBox this year but wish to join those who have,  please check with our club’s ShelterBox Liaison Bill Dowd or treasurer Murray Forth for details.


Check out our 2 new website pages

Rotary Youth Exchange logoThe observant folks among you may have noticed something different about our website’s page index at the top of the screen.

Take a look. See what we mean? Two new pages have been added to the lineup: Youth Exchange and ShelterBox.

As we resurrect our student exchange program, with Youth Exchange Officer A.J. Amato on the point, it seemed appropriate to post a selection of videos made by students themselves to describe their year living and studying abroad, the mixture of emotions they experienced, some tips for other students interested in such an experience, and more.

The new page also includes a Q&A covering the basics of the program. From time to time, we will post other videos as well as general information on Rotary Youth Exchange on that page.

ShelterBox logoThe other new page celebrates our ongoing support of the ShelterBox global disaster relief program, to which we recently donated another $5,000. It explains what is in a ShelterBox, how the boxes are delivered, how you can continue to assist, and other information.

Incidentally, if you’re planning to visit a local nursery to get your spring plants or seeds, you may want to stop in at Faddegon’s Nursery, 1140 Troy Schenectady Road, Latham. There, owners Jack and Nancy Faddegon, who have coordinated District 7190’s ShelterBox efforts for the past decade, have created a ShelterBox display to help inform their customers about this ongoing humanitarian project.

Chile latest country needing ShelterBox disaster aid

A ShelterBox response team this week arrived in Chile, where the people are facing the aftermath of two separate natural disasters that have left entire  communities without homes and shelter from some of the most unpredictable displays of nature the South American nation has ever seen.

In the Atacama region, a usually arid area, intense rainfall has led to rivers bursting their banks, flash flooding and landslides. The floods not only damaged infrastructure, they have left more than 8,000 families with either damaged or destroyed homes.

More than a thousand miles away, in the state of Los Lagos, activity from the Calbuco volcano has resulted in the evacuation of 6,600 homes. The volcano erupted for the first time in 42 years, dispersing a 10-mile high plume of ash into the air, along with other pyroclastic materials.

A 12-mile evacuation zone has been enforced around the Calbuco volcano because of concerns that it not only could cause a great deal of destruction, but could collapse itself, which would cause a massive pyroclastic flow, which is a current of hot gas and rock that can travel downhill at speeds of 450 miles per hour, destroying everything in its path.

Ayeaisa McIntyre, ShelterBox operations coordinator, explained how extraordinary these events are:

“The response in Chile is quite unusual given that we are responding to two separate disasters at the same time. Not only is this unusual for ShelterBox, but the events themselves are historically unlikely.

“The Atacama region, which is one of the driest places on earth, received the equivalent of seven years of rainfall in less than 24 hours. In Los Lagos, the area surrounding the Calbuco volcano, was evacuated prior to the first eruption in four decades. After the eruption on April 22, people started returning to their ash-covered homes only to experience two further eruptions.”

The ShelterBox team, made up of John Cordell and Kevin Monforte of the United States and Scott Culbertson of Canada, is working with Habitat for Humanity and the Chilean Red Cross Society to provide shelter kits to 1,500 families whose homes have been destroyed or damaged by these events.

ShelterBox pledges being sought

Screen shot 2015-03-28 at 2.12.07 PMThe Southern Rensselaer County Rotary Club budgeted $1,000 in this Rotary Year to fund a pair of scholarships for the Rotary Scholarship Composition competition. However, we have received zero entries.

So, the $1,000 will be rolled into the line-item budget commitment to ShelterBox. That increases the amount to $3,000.

In addition, Bill and April Dowd have personally pledged $1,000 toward ShelterBox, meaning the club now has funds to purchase four (4) of them @ $1,000 each.

Anyone else who wishes to contribute toward that project should contact Bill no later than the April 2 meeting because we want to get the club check sent to the District 7190 ShelterBox coordinators right away.

SRC has long been a strong supporter of the ShelterBox humanitarian aid program and recently received recognition from the program during the annual Rotary Day at the United Nations.

For newer members who may not be steeped in knowledge about ShelterBox, information is available by clicking here.

Philippine disaster aid, one year after typhoon

A Philippine family helped by ShelterBox.
A Philippine family helped by ShelterBox.

• One year ago this month, Typhoon Haiyan devastated large swaths of the Philippines. As a humanitarian effort, the Southern Rensselaer County Rotary Club quickly raised $10,000 to purchase 10 ShelterBoxes to help the recovery effort there. What follows is a personal reflection from ShelterBox’s country coordinator in the Philippines.

Toby Ash
Toby Ash


“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, traveling 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 tree, many rice fields and thousands of fishing boats, leaving those who depend on them for their living without income. 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?

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 traveled 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 coordinators who oversaw the emergency response in the early part of the year. Jo Reid, our projects consultant at HQ, and I 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 organizations — 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) 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 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. 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 learned? 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.

ShelterBox aiding displaced minorities in Iraq photo
Refugees fleeing ISIS terrorists. [ photo]
The common belief about ShelterBox aid is that it is for natural disasters. However, relief activity in the war-torn Middle East shows that not to be the case.

When the United Nations declared a “Level 3 emergency” in Iraq, with religious minorities fleeing ISIS terrorists, ShelterBox partnered with both the U.N. and the Agency for Technical Cooperation and Development (ACTED) to attempt to deliver vital shelter to families previously stranded on Sinjar Mountain.

Thousands of such people were left stranded atop Sinjar Mountain after being driven from their homes by the advance of Islamic State militants in the region. The rapid advance of militant fighters that has thrown Iraq into crisis now has led to overseas involvement in the form of aid interventions.

The U.N. estimates that 1.2 million Iraqis have been internally displaced by the crisis. ShelterBox has a wealth of experience in humanitarian responses in the region, having been responding to the Syria crisis since early 2012 and also has rendered aid in the Kurdistan sector of Iraq.

The U.N.’s Level 3 statement explained that, “given the scale and complexity of the current humanitarian catastrophe, this measure will facilitate mobilization of additional resources in goods, funds and assets to ensure a more effective response to the humanitarian needs of populations affected by forced displacements.”

ShelterBox, which had pre-positioned stock in Iraq, worked with the U.N. and ACTED to move 500 U.N.-specification tents to Duhok, near the border with Syria, to be used to establish a camp to provide shelter for internally displaced people.

Although daytime temperatures in the region currently are high, the ShelterBox is making making provisions to supplement the current stock of shelter in Iraq with winterization kits. This is a precautionary measure in case the need for shelter sadly extend into the colder winter months.

Hockey ‘Rotary Night’ a ShelterBox fundraiser

Screen shot 2014-01-30 at 2.40.26 PMScreen shot 2014-01-30 at 2.40.15 PMThe Capital Region’s two American Hockey League professional teams will go head-to-head during a  “Rotary Night” fundraiser at the Glens Falls Civic Center on Friday, February 21.

The Glens Falls Rotary Club will host the event in support of the ShelterBox program, pitting the home team Adirondack Phantoms against the Albany Devils.

The puck drops at 7 p.m. on Rotary Night. Why not get a group of Rotarians and friends together to attend? The Phantoms will provide the Golia Ice Lounge for Rotarians to gather for fellowship and cash bar goodies prior to the game and during intermissions.

Tickets will be available for $15 per person. For each ticket sold, the Phantoms will rebate $5 to District 7190 toward the purchase of a Shelter Box for disaster relief efforts. Thus, each 200 tickets sold will result in one box purchased at $1,000 per.