In 2000, the idea for ShelterBox was hit upon by the Rotary Club of Helston-Lizard in Cornwall, when Rotary encouraged members to come up with projects to mark the Millennium.
The Helston-Lizard club was an established group of around 40 people, who had been involved in a variety of charitable activities, both at home and abroad.
The idea was sparked by watching the news and wanting to do more after seeing that people seemed to be left with nothing after disaster. The club loved the idea of helping in a practical way to make a tangible difference.
ShelterBox was launched by the club that same year. The initial hope was to help 8 to 10 families a year, with each box containing a family-sized tent, sleeping bags, water purifying tablets, trenching tool and pots and pans.
In the first year, this group of passionate volunteers took the idea and developed it into something more.
They investigated the emergency items people need and worked to understand transport and logistics. They spoke to manufacturers and found a sturdy box. They visited the Rotary International Conference to drum up support and float the idea more widely.
In the first year, Rotary Clubs alone donated £88,000. The faith shown by the Rotary community led to the first-ever response supporting families affected by the 2001 earthquake in Gujarat, India.
ShelterBox became a registered charity in 2003, with the trustees and board members all belonging to the Rotary Club of Helston-Lizard.
– James Kingston, Past President of Helston Lizard Rotary Club
In 2012, with Rotary members around the world rallying behind a shared vision, the partnership between ShelterBox and Rotary was formally recognised when ShelterBox became Rotary’s official project partner in disaster relief.
ShelterBox has grown to become a respected humanitarian organisation providing emergency shelter, essential items, and support to over 1.5 million people. And with fundraising teams in 15 countries – all founded by Rotary members.
Photo of Rotary supporting ShelterBox aid distributions in the Philippines after Tropical Storm Usman in 2019.
Rotary remains at the heart of ShelterBox.
Clubs and members around the world support by raising vital funds and awareness at home, and local Rotary contacts also provide essential assistance in countries affected by disasters.
ShelterBox was built on a firm understanding of the value of collaboration. Today ShelterBox continues to go further and reach more people by working with a range of influential partners including the International Federation of Red Cross and the International Organisation for Migration.
Photo of our response in Bangladesh, 2019, where Rotary contacts played an instrumental role.