Group gives relief a home

FAIRMONT – Imagine losing everything you own, then having to trek on foot a distance comparable from Fairmont to Green Bay, Wis. In some areas of the world, struggles like this are a reality, explained Greg Krauska of ShelterBox to Fairmont’s Rotary Club on Monday.

From refugees of war in Syria, to millions affected by Super Typhoon Hiyan in the Philippines, volunteers have been deploying ShelterBoxes to help families begin reclaiming their lives.

ShelterBox began in 2000 in Cornwall, U.K., but has since become a global non-profit entity.

“We’ve been in 90 countries and helped with over 200 disasters,” Krauska said.

ShelterBox responds immediately to natural and manmade disasters worldwide, and fills a gap in aid provisions. While food and medicine are delivered by other agencies, ShelterBox provides assistance in terms of proper shelter, to help survivors through the aftermath.

“We deliver humanitarian relief by giving them the basic essentials such as shelter and water purification, tools, blankets, and other essentials,” Krauska said.

The ShelterBox tent is large enough to house a family, and has the option of privacy partitions.

“These tents are very robust,” Krauska said. “They can withstand the sun and winds up to 70 mph; it’s adaptable to hot and cold climates.”

ShelterBox kits include a wood-burning or multi-fuel stove, self-sufficiency tools, and blankets and insulated ground sheets.

“We cover all the essentials, like cookware and serving ware,” Krauska said. “Safe water, even children’s supplies.”

ShelterBox kits, including the storage while waiting to ship and transportation of the kit – costs about $1,000.

“About 40 percent of our funding comes from Rotary Clubs,” Krauska said. “The rest is either corporate funding or from individual donations. This is what allows us to continue to be able to serve and help.”

Volunteers are trained and deliver the ShelterBoxes personally.

“They go to where the need is greatest,” Krauska said. “They show the people how to use these items and set up the tent.”

ShelterBox had its biggest response ever this past fall when Super Typhoon Hiyan hit the Philippines. The organization also has helped about 5,000 families in the Syrian crisis.

“We’ve noticed that the funding always follows the news,” Krauska said. “After the typhoon was on TV, then we saw a spike in donations. There’s always a spike when a disaster makes the headlines. But when we really need the funding is in advance. I always say, ‘When did Noah build the ark?’ Before the floods.'”

But as ShelterBoxes become better known, donations have increased.

“In the last year, donations grew more than four-fold,” Krauska said.

Fairmont’s Rotary Club has been involved with ShelterBox in the past, according to club member Ken Wolfgram. In 2010, the club went in with St. James and Madelia Rotaries for a ShelterBox.

ShelterBox also is always looking for volunteers to respond to disasters.

“It’s two weeks at a time, in the worst conditions,” Krauska warned. “But the people are thoroughly appreciative for what we do … We’ve had everyone from business owners to students. There is no one profile [for volunteers]. Anyone who can perform well under uncertainty and extreme conditions.”

More information on ShadowBox is available at shelterboxusa.org