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Rotarians promote ‘Shelter Box’ program

By Staff | Jan 26, 2011

Shelter Box representative Ross Spencer shows students from Ida Baker High School’s Interact Club and JROTC what is inside a “shelter box.” Shelter Box is an international disaster relief charity that delivers fully equiped emergency shelters and helps people affected by natural disasters around the world. It was started as the brainchild of a Rotarian with the support of his Rotary club in 2000. MICHAEL PISTELLA

The Rotary Club of Cape Coral North has donated “Shelter Boxes” to various countries after natural disasters since 2004.
Students got a look at the program Wednesday.
Seven Ida Baker High School Interact Club members assisted Shelter Box representative Ross Spencer erect a tent before the Rotary Club of Cape Coral North’s meeting to showcase the 10-person tent that is sent anywhere in the world to assist those impacted by a natural disaster.
Club president and junior Danielle Angelo said she was happy to help Wednesday night because she “loves helping people out and knowing what I do makes a difference.”
She said she was amazed at how many items were included in a Shelter Box disaster relief package.
“It’s amazing that goes out and that we are there” helping humanity, Angelo said.
Interact Club advisor Vernon Cook said he enjoys working with the Rotary Club because it continues to involve his students in everything meaningful. He currently has 24 active members on his roster, with an expected 12 members to join the Rotary Club of Cape Coral North meeting Wednesday night.
Cook was in the military for 25 years, which has given him a first-hand understanding of how many countries are in need of assistance.
The club “gets them involved in the less fortunate around the world,” he said, adding that it provides them with a sense of “now I am not as small as I used to be” because of their knowledge of what is going on around the world.
Spencer provided a presentation to all of the club members to explain what the contents of the Shelter Box are, along with how it has assisted many countries in their time of need.
In 2004, the Rotary Club of Cape Coral North donated a Shelter Box to Grenada after a hurricane; in 2005 to Indonesia because of a tsunami; in 2006 another Shelter Box was donated because of a tsunami in Java; in 2007 flooding in Pakistan prompted another donation as did an earthquake in Sumatra in 2009 and the earthquake in Haiti in 2010.
The Ida Baker High School Interact Club donated enough money for two Shelter Boxes to be sent to Haiti.
Rotary International District 6960 Governor Don Thomas said after Haiti was devastated a year ago, everyone contributed enough to donate 70 boxes in the 10 days after the earthquake struck. He explained that the occupants of a Shelter Box take great pride in their tent and keep it very clean.
Spencer said they responded to 23 disasters last year, providing many Shelter Boxes to those in need.
The 130-pound stocked box that is sent to natural disaster areas costs $1,000 to equip with the essentials needed to survive.
Spencer said the box contains a 10-person tent, with a porch, cook stove, two pots, lids, spoons, stainless steel service ware, water purification system, blankets, insulated ground sheets, mosquito nets and a tool kit. The box also includes “a smile” for the children, — items such as a slate, pad of paper, pens, chalk and crayons.
The white tent, Spencer said will last anywhere from a year and a half to two years in Haiti. He explained that the tent also has air pockets between the outer and inner portions of the tent to either make it cooler inside during the summer or warmer during the winter.
He explained that the cook stove can burn any kind of fuel including lint off of clothing. The new stainless steel plates and bowls have been added to the Shelter Box because they do not chip and last longer.
The water purification system, which produces 15,000 liters of water over two to three years is another item packed in every Shelter Box. Spencer said all an individual has to do is find a source of water and run it through the filter system to obtain clean drinking and cooking water.
The family can also keep the Shelter Box, Spencer explained, which becomes very valuable to them because it is waterproof and can act as storage.
The contents of the Shelter Box are modified, depending on where they are sent.
Spencer said since the earthquake hit Haiti, 28,000 Shelter Boxes have been sent to assist individuals. Within two hours after the earthquake struck, three Shelter Box response teams were notified and they delivered 40 tents three days later that were utilized as a hospital. He explained that medical staff would walk through 40 tents lined up for amputations every 30 minutes.
“The Shelter Box is a worldwide global Rotary Club function,” Spencer said.
Shelter Boxes have only been used once in the United States, in Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina hit.
Tom Henderson, United Kingdom Rotarian and former Royal Navy search and rescue diver founded Shelter Box in 1999 after he wanted to provide proper shelter after natural disasters occur.
A total of 100,000 Shelter Boxes have been sent out throughout the world since its inception.