By Sarah Seeley
Sept. 29, 2014
Alison Wallace doesn’t watch TV like most people.
When she watches reporters of natural disasters, she springs into action because she knows how to help.
Wallace is the CEO of Shelterbox International. She is originally from New Zealand and she joined ShelterBox in April of 2013 with 15 years of experience in international organizations.
ShelterBox provides emergency shelter and vital supplies to support communities around the world overwhelmed by disaster and humanitarian crisis.
A ShelterBox is a durable waterproof box with a capacity of 185 litres. When fully packed, it weighs between 110 and 130 pounds. The box contains a 10-person disaster relief tent, thermal sheets or sleeping bags, mosqsuito netting, water filter, toolbox, multi-fuel stove and cooking utensils.
Children’s boxes also include drawing books, pens and pencils.
Last year, ShelterBox deployed 24 shipments of boxes and this year they sent out over 10, said Walllace.
“If there’s a big crisis, like the typhoon in the Philippines, or the earthquake in Haiti, then we will distribute aid and relief supplies to those people.”
One of the deployments was to North Korea when it was hit by flooding from a typhoon.
“North Korea is not a place where non-profits organizations are active. It’s such a closed country.”
ShelterBox International monitors severe weather events to decide where they will deploy the boxes. They are trying to send relief to Syria, northern Iraq and Ukraine.
The organization is connected around the world with 18 international affiliates, including ShelterBox Canada.
Wallace made her first official visit to the Maritimes on Sept. 29 and attended the Charlottetown Rotary Club meeting to thank them for their support.
The six Island Rotary Clubs are supporters of ShelterBox. They have donated 100 of the $1,200 boxes since 2000.
The Holland College Culinary Institute also held a fundraising dinner in 2010 in response to the Haiti earthquake, raising enough money for 19 boxes.
“They are the highest donors per capita, so I thought it was a great opportunity to say thank you to them for their generous support and update them on what their donations are doing around the world,” said Wallace.
Gordon Harper, a member of the Charlottetown Rotary Club, said the clubs hold Christmas parties, tent campouts and church events to raise money. They also set up a ShelterBox tent in the Delta Prince Edward hotel’s lobby in Charlottetown to raise awareness about the organization.
Wallace was blown away by the generosity of the Rotary clubs.
“There’s no end to the variety of things people do to raise money. People do the most incredible things. Our green ShelterBox is an iconic thing to see, so it really attracts attention. The sustaining support by the Rotary clubs is no small task. It’s constant attention to what we do. It’s important to our ability to respond.”
ShelterBoxes are a popular Christmas gift idea, said Wallace.
“They make a great Christmas gift. It’s that time of year when people are trying to find a gift for someone who has everything. Why not give to people who have nothing?”
Harper said the clubs plan more opportunities to help ShelterBox.
“There will be more weather events and regional conflicts. The need is increasing exponentially. As people become more aware about our projects, they will be more willing to support it.”