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Rotary tents provide shelter for the most vulnerable in Haiti

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Families with newborn babies and pregnant women were the first to receive emergency shelter by the ShelterBox Response Team operating in Haiti.

The Response Team initially set up a ShelterBox camp for up to 1,000 people on the Henfrasa sports field in Delmas, Port au Prince, Haiti, providing emergency shelter for the most in need and the most vulnerable.

ShelterBox Response Team member and General Manager Lasse Petersen said: ‘We agreed with the local community that the initial tent allocation would be for families with pregnant women and families with newborns.

Arial picture of Congress Camp in Haiti where 400 ShelterBox tents have been set up. Photograph: Mark Pearson

Starting as the brainchild of one Rotarian with the support of his Rotary club in year 2000 – ShelterBox has grown to become the largest Rotary Club project in the 100 year history of the organization.

Rotarian support currently contributes an estimated 50% of ShelterBox donations. Around 5,000 rotary clubs worldwide have supported ShelterBox since it was launched.

A complete ShelterBox costs $1,000 to supply and deliver.The Rotary Club of Cedar Hill is among the ShelterBox supporters, financing three ShelterBoxes for the Haitian emergency with funds from their annual Head for the Hills bike rally.

Rotarians underpin many of the essential activities of ShelterBox including:

* Donations - vital to funding ShelterBox disaster relief efforts

* Support in promoting the work of ShelterBox by speaking to clubs, schools & community groups

* Volunteering in all fields from packing boxes, to admininstrative support and fundraising assistance

* Participation in volunteer ShelterBox Response Teams (SRTs) deployed to disasters worldwide to deliver aid

* Extensive support to SRTs arriving in disaster affected countries. Help often encompasses customs clearance, logistics, transport, accommodation and essential local knowledge and connections

* Staff, management and leadership of the organisation as employees or volunteer trustees and directors

Meanwhile the aid operation from the UK continues.More than 7,000 ShelterBoxes have been deployed in Haiti, providing emergency shelter to more than 70,000 people.

'There is still an overwhelming need for shelter and we have to continue to do all we can to get ShelterBoxes to those who need it the most. The security environment is difficult so we have to work hard with all the other agencies to achieve a coordinated approach to distribution.

ShelterBox Founder and CEO, Tom Henderson, added: ‘None of this would have been possible without the fantastic fundraising efforts from ShelterBox supporters around the world. The need is huge but the response is matching it.

The ShelterBox Response Team on the ground say there are still thousands of people in need of shelter and the operation remains challenging.

Speaking from the UN compound in Port au Prince, ShelterBox Response Team member Tom Lay (UK) said: ‘We’re working extremely hard delivering boxes and providing people with shelter but there are still so many people in need of our help.’

If you would like to contribute to the ShelterBox effort to house people in Haiti, visit their website, ShelterBox.org.

What’s in a ShelterBox?


At the heart of every ShelterBox is a ten-person tent. It is custom made for ShelterBox by Vango, one of the world’s leading tent manufacturers, and is designed to withstand extreme temperatures, high winds and heavy rainfall. Internally, each tent has privacy partitions that allow recipients to divide the space as they see fit.

A smile

Every box contains a children’s pack containing drawing books, crayons and pens. For children who have lost most, if not all,their possessions, these small gifts are treasured.

Warmth and protection

In addition to the tent, the boxes contain a range of other survival equipment including thermal blankets and insulated ground sheets, essential in areas where temperatures plummet at nightfall. Where malaria is prevalent mosquito nets are supplied, as well a life saving means of water purification. Water supplies often become contaminated after a major disaster, as infrastructure and sanitation systems are destroyed, this presents a secondary but no less dangerous threat to survivors than the initial disaster itself.

Self sufficiency

A basic tool kit containing a hammer, axe, saw, trenching shovel, hoe head, pliers and wire cutters can be found in every box. These items enable people to improve their immediate environment, by chopping firewood or digging a latrine, for example. Then, when it is possible, to start repairing or rebuilding the home they were forced to leave.

Fit for purpose

Every item is durable, practical and brand new. The box itself is lightweight and waterproof and has been used for a variety of purposes in the past - from water and food storage containers to a cot for a newly born baby.

A heart to the home

A key piece in every box is either a wood burning or multi-fuel stove - that can burn anything from diesel to old paint. This provides the heart of the new home where water is boiled, food is cooked and families congregate. In addition, there are pans, utensils, bowls, mugs and water storage containers.

Ulrigue Idal gave birth to 2 day old Edwige at the Centre D'Ebergement and is now staying in a ShelterBox tent. Photograph: Mark Pearson

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