W hen the ground shook under Nepal Saturday and buildings crumbled into rubble, killing thousands, one thought immediately seared itself across my brain — now is the time for “the box that saves lives.”
That life saver, of course, is ShelterBox, the famous green, disaster aid boxes that are sent all over the world whenever a major natural disaster strikes be it an earthquake, hurricane, flood or any other manifestation of Nature’s wrath.
As luck would have it, I’d just done a ShelterBox presentation at T.M. Roberts Elementary School less than a week before the earth was rent asunder in Kathmandu and the surrounding Himalayan countryside often called the roof of the world. This drove home to me the dire need to move from talk to action to prevent the death toll from climbing beyond the 5,000 already confirmed dead.
But it won’t be easy.
However if any aid agency or NGO is up to the Herculean task, ShelterBox is probably it. Founded in 2000 by the English Rotary Club of Helston-Lizard, which adopted it as its official millennium project, ShelterBox quickly spread around the world, responding to more than 200 disasters in 90 countries providing aid to more than a million people including victims of the horrific Asian tsunami in 2004, the devastating Haitian earthquake in 2010 and many other natural and man-made disasters such as wars in the Middle East.
The durable green boxes contain a huge, water-proof, free-standing tent that can sleep up to 10 as well as equipment disaster victims can use to support themselves once the tent is set up, including a folding, wood or coal-burning stove, pots and pans, water purification equipment, axe, saw,
shovel, mosquito nets, thermal fleece blankets, water-proof ground mats and even a children’s activity kit.
ShelterBox’s fill a gap in relief aid by supplying safe and secure shelter — a roof over the heads of disaster victims — while they wait for other agencies to provide food, medicine and other critical forms of relief.
Interviewed on CBC Radio Wednesday, Invermere climber Pat Morrow, the second Canadian to climb Mount Everest and an extensive traveller in Nepal, said the critical need now is shelter with pre-monsoon rains and snow battering the devastated country. “Right now, it’s short term help that’s going to make the difference.”
ShelterBox Operations Coordinator Phil Duloy, who is on the ground in Kathmandu, says the need is stunning. “Clearly this is going to be a major operation.” Beckie Menard, a volunteer on the scene, says, “There’s a huge, huge need in Nepal. We’re going to be here for months and months.”
The 7.8 magnitude quake also caught climbers on Mount Everest, the highest mountain in the world about 150 km northeast of Kathmandu. Many died from avalanches triggered by the quake with British climber Daniel Mazur tweeting, “A massive earthquake just hit Everest. Base camp has been severely damaged. Our team is caught in Camp 1. Please pray for everyone.”
Several people from Cranbrook and other parts of the East Kootenay were stranded in Nepal by the quake, but are believed to be safe.
So is there anything any of us can do to help? Allow me to be personal. I trekked into Everest from Kathmandu in 2011 and let me tell you this. I’ve never in my life met people as strong, resilient and friendly as the Nepalese, especially the Sherpa’s, who pound-for-pound have got to be the toughest people on earth. Their country is poor but they are strong in the things that count like grit, determination and generosity. A little bit of generosity towards them from us will pay immense dividends in helping them to rebuild their country out of the carnage and rubble it lies in now. But they need a roof over their heads before they can begin this gargantuan task.
So as a Rotary ShelterBox Ambassador, I sincerely ask if you would consider making a financial donation to the ShelterBox program. It costs $1,200 to send a fully-equipped ShelterBox anywhere in the world, but donations of any size are appreciated and donations of $20 or more will get a charitable tax receipt.
All you have to do is visit the Townsman during regular business hours and ask for the ShelterBox Canada Donation Form and you can donate by cheque, credit card or cash. You will receive a receipt and/or a copy of the donation form if you wish. This just may be one of the nicest things you do this year. And thanks to the Townsman and the Cranbrook Sunrise Rotary Club for making this possible.
Submitted by Gerry Warner, Cranbrook Sunrise Rotary Club ShelterBox