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Friday 27 January 2012

Thailand revisited by ShelterBox
Thailand revisited by ShelterBox
A Thai girl outside her and her family's ShelterBox tent in Lopburi.

When unusually heavy monsoon rains began to fall in Thailand in October 2011, 30 of its 77 provinces were affected, resulting in the Asian country’s worst flooding in over half a century. ShelterBox Response Teams (SRT) responded over a three-month period and distributed 448 ShelterBoxes, 1000 midi tents, 3500 mosquito nets and eight Classrooms in a Box. 

Five months after the floods began, UK-based ShelterBox’s Operations Coordinator Alison Ashlin, Operations Assistant Rebecca Ridgeway and US-based SRT volunteer Scott Robinson have been deployed to Thailand to conduct a ShelterBox monitoring and evaluation program. 

The program is aimed at collating information to improve ShelterBox’s speed of delivery and overall response by speaking to beneficiaries and collecting their feedback, interviewing in-country partners and assessing the conditions of the tents in the flood hit areas. 


Alison recounts one beneficiary’s story of how he and his family survived the flood in the city of Ayutthaya, in which the water rose to one and a half metres in one night. 

"In an area called Ayutthaya approximately 60 kilometres north of Bangkok, I met with Mr Phairoj, the head of his village. Mr Phairoj explained how the floodwater destroyed both his house and his cousin’s house next door. Measuring almost two meters, the initial floodwater came very quickly one night and increased every day until eventually it reached a height of three meters." 

A house in Lopburi water stained by the floods showing how high they were.

"The first evening of the floods, Mr Phairoj and his family were very scared, so they quickly moved to higher ground taking no possessions with them. Here the six of them lived under a makeshift roof and slept on top of a table afraid that snakes and crocodiles would bite them while they were sleeping."

‘When ShelterBox responded, his family was given a ShelterBox disaster relief tent that was set up on high ground at the side of a road. To reach families affected by the flooding in Ayutthaya, ShelterBox worked with the Ayutthaya Chamber of Commerce and used boats to deliver emergency aid to the displaced families. The floodwater remained in Ayutthaya for four months."

"Mr Phairoj explained that the best thing about receiving the ShelterBox tent was that he and his family were no longer afraid of being bitten by snakes and were able to sleep properly. Additionally, once the floodwater receded, they were able to pack down their tent and relocate it to their village to shelter in whilst they started to repair their damaged homes. The tent is still being used for this purpose."


On a separate occasion the ShelterBox team met with a family that had been given a ShelterBox tent in Wat Sai Yai school, in Nonthaburi, which is approximately 30 kilometers north of Bangkok. This is their story.

"When the floodwater damaged their home, this family of five took shelter in Wat Sai Yai school, which was set up as an emergency evacuation center. Here they lived with almost 3,500 people for one month until ShelterBox arrived with 143 tents. Families moved into the tents, which were placed on the school playing field. By relocating the displaced families to the ShelterBox tents, the school was able to reopen as the classrooms were no longer being used for shelter. Although still living away from their homes, the school reopening was an important step as it reinstated some sense of normality, especially for the displaced children."

ShelterBox tents set up in a small camp in Lopburi providing displaced families with temporary homes.


Approximately 160 kilometers north of Bangkok in an area called Lopburi, we found 17 families still living in tents. Here Rebecca explains how our monitoring and evaluation trip has had an immediate and beneficial impact on the people at this small camp.

"Speaking to the people at this small camp, we found out that they felt forgotten and had no access to food or clean drinking water as the daily distributions of relief aid had stopped. Additionally, they could not go home because these families’ homes have been completely destroyed and they said there is now no work in the city of Lopburi to pay for the rebuilding."

"As the people in Lopburi were in a desperate situation, it was a pretty easy decision to change our plans and gift the Lifestraw to the people of this camp. We set up the Lifestraw water purifier and demonstrated how to use it – we also gave the community a leaflet in Thai that explained how the water filtration system works. It was amazing to see brown river water going into the top of the filtration kit and clean drinking water coming out the bottom. It was a great day knowing that these families now had clean drinking water."

SRT volunteer Scott Robinson (US) with a family in Nonthaburi who has taken a ShelterBox tent back to their home whilst they repair their house. 


Scott explains how being involved in this monitoring and evaluation trip to Thailand has given him a surprising sense of closure that is sometimes missing for SRT volunteers coming back from short deployments.

"When I first arrived in country, we were dispatched to Lopburi where I witnessed massive devastation. For 45 kilometers, people were lined up along the roadside, standing on stacked pallets with chairs and one or two small bags of personal belongings. The water was actually flowing over the road, which was the highest point in the area. Looking to the sides of the road we could only see the rooftops of submerged houses. I was surprised as we drove past that the Thai people were smiling and waving in the face of this disaster. In Lopburi we distributed 660 tents. I was in country for the months of October and November and then I was presented with the opportunity to return to be involved in the monitoring and evaluation follow-up trip: a new experience for me. What I didn’t realize is that when returning to country post-disaster, when life has returned to normal for the people and surroundings, that I would feel a surprising sense of closure. I have been on over ten ShelterBox deployments and each time I have left not knowing the final outcome for the people I have helped. You are always left wondering what happened next for them - you never forget about the people you have helped."
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