Tuesday, 8 July 2008


Balancing the absurd short-sightedness of women like my neighbour next-door-but-one (overheard today shouting over the fence at the deaf nonogenarian next door: 'The tree (that is the millenium oak referred to in previous posting) will soon be down dear. Off with its head...Only eight weeks to go...'), is the spectacular altruism of Rotarian and ex-Royal Navy search and rescue diver Tom Henderson, founder of Shelterbox. Back in 1999, when he was watching reports of a natural disaster on the TV, Tom saw aid workers dropping bread and other items for survivors, who were obliged to scramble and hustle to get provisions. Realising that these people had lost pretty much everything - their homes, their livelihoods, in many cases, their loved ones, he felt it a was a loss too far to see them forgoing their dignity as well. To help restore that dignity, he founded Shelterbox as a Rotary Club project, based in Helston, Cornwall, not realising at the time that this would become one of the world's leading humanitarian relief organisations.  The boxes in question, each costing around £490, contain a tent (shelter), essential tools and cooking equipment, etc to sustain an extended family of up to ten people for up to six months. 

I wandered around the vast warehouse used by the charity at the fantastically named Water-Ma-Trout industrial estate. One of our party (a teacher, too) asked if the eponymous boxes could not be more 'environmentally friendly'. With gentle patience, our guide explained that the plastic containers had a vital use as water reservoirs for the recipients, once the contents had been unpacked and the shelter pitched. The idea was that they filled the box with water, threw in the water purification tablets (which cannot, for some unfathomable reason, clear US customs because they are classified as 'a food'!) and - survived. Clearly, the eco-friendly cardboard box would not serve such a vital aim. Clearly, and sadly, the eco option is often one that only cosseted westerners can afford to contemplate. When choice is limited to dying of thirst or staying alive, the plastic box comes into the fore.


Go there!

No comments: