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Humans of ShelterBox: Johanna’s Story

by Eleanor Knight 30th June 2022

Introducing ‘Humans of ShelterBox’ — a new spotlight series highlighting some of the incredible individuals who make our disaster relief work possible around the world. 

To kick things off, we’re excited to introduce Johanna Johns — one of our long-standing and deeply committed volunteers who lives in Sydney, NSW. This is her story…

My Name is Johanna Johns and I have lived in Sydney now for almost 25 years — the longest time I have lived anywhere. I was born in Holland and my family migrated to Australia in the sixties… without knowing any English. Thankfully, I learned the language quickly enough to understand and be understood within 3 months.

In my thirties I went back to Europe to live in London, where I enjoyed travelling and visiting my home country. In London, I started my own business in the cellular mobile phone industry, which was challenging but gave me the freedom I wanted.

After 8 years in the UK I returned to Australia, and at that time I chose to become an Australian Citizen — making the decision that I belong here, a very proud moment indeed.

I came back to Australia during a recession and finding work was difficult. The only job I was offered was in the weight loss industry — I stayed in that role for about 18 months and learned a lot about health and wellbeing.

Many years later, I completed a 12 month on-line weight loss course — it surprised me how much I already knew, but learned a lot more. I loved the online learning concept as my brain always needs to be stimulated. I passed the course and became a qualified weight loss consultant — a happy moment for my personal and professional life!

During that time I also joined the Rotary Club of Beecroft, and about seven months later I put my hand up to join the ShelterBox team as an Ambassador. After meeting with Peter Pearce, I was allocated about seven Rotary Clubs to contact. My sales and marketing experience made it easy for me to be proactive in ShelterBox and secure presentations.

I see my position as an Ambassador for ShelterBox as creating awareness and fundraising. My involvement with ShelterBox has created many worthy memories — I have lots of fun whilst doing good in the world. I am grateful for the many generous people I have met through asking them to support me in raising funds for ShelterBox.

Putting my hand up for my first ShelterBox Trek4Shelter in Nepal was pretty scary as I had to raise $3,500 and did not have a plan as to how. But I just got started early, referred  back to all the networking I had done over the years and before I knew it I had reached $5,000 — so, I decided to double the goal to $7,000… which was achieved (and some!) by my community!

Of course, once the fundraising goal is reached you need to complete the trek as to not disappoint your supporters — and needless to say, parts of the trek were very scary and I needed that little extra to be brave! When you are confronted with heavy rain that turns paths into streams and rocks very slippery, it’s all scary. I could not afford to break a limb — I had a job I needed to go back to — so my main objective was to stay upright and realise this was not a race for me, even though it may have been for some.

Nepal was the break that I needed to find what was really important for me and find my purpose, which I did.  After the lockdown of COVID-19 I joined the Trek4Shelter Tassie Trek and was awarded the ShelterBox Representative for this team. The Cradle Mountain area just outside of Launceston and hosts an amazing botanical park, along with bushland, water holes and mountain ranges — I fell in love with its beauty. Another fabulous ShelterBox adventure, again supported by my network of people… and not all Rotarians!

My most recent Trek4Shelter was a long weekend to the top of Mount Kosciusko — a lovely easy trek with beautiful scenery.

I have thoroughly enjoyed my time in Rotary and, as a consequence, have ended up with a passion for ShelterBox Australia. I have never taken the time to add up how much I have raised for ShelterBox but I have had some very proud moments in doing so.

While volunteering and fundraising, what I think about most of all is the lives of people and families that my time a is making a little better and more comfortable during times of crisis.

Do you volunteer for ShelterBox Australia or are connected to our cause? We would love to feature you in our Humans of ShelterBox series! Click here to complete your story

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