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Monday 06 February 2012

ShelterBox celebrates Waitangi Day
ShelterBox celebrates Waitangi Day
New Zealand-based SRT volunteer Owen Smith and UK-based Lizzy Treglown on deployment in Kenya 2011.

Waitangi Day commemorates a significant event in the history of New Zealand. The annual national holiday celebrates the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, New Zealand’s founding document, on February 6, 1840. ShelterBox has many Kiwi supporters and would like to celebrate this day by recognizing some of the ways in which they contribute to the charity. 

Not far from the Treaty grounds at Waitangi, in the beautiful Bay of Islands lies the town of Kerikeri. The Rotary Club there has been a major supporter of ShelterBox having raised around NZ$30,000 for it over the past couple of years. 

The town is also home to Rotarian and ShelterBox Response Team (SRT) volunteer Owen Smith who has been deployed on eight occasions since completing his SRT training in February 2009. His most recent deployment was to Kenya in August 2011, where ShelterBox distributed emergency shelter to families who had been forced to flee across the border of Somalia to escape the worst famine in 60 years and the ongoing conflict that had blighted the country. 

Owen was part of the SRT that worked in collaboration with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to get the first 2,900 ShelterBox tents ready for occupation and around 2,000 families had moved into the camp during his time in Dadaab. 

"It was amazing to be able to set up so many tents in such a short space of time," said Smith. "When we realized that there were upwards of 80,000 people living in extremely basic and cramped transition areas waiting for somewhere permanent to live and every day another 1,400 refugees were arriving here in Dadaab we knew we had to work fast. 

"This deployment truly demonstrated ShelterBox’s capacity to make a real difference in the world and by working in partnership with UNHCR and IOM agencies we achieved a great result for so many refugee families. After all the hard, hot and dusty work that goes into getting our equipment ready to use, it was wonderful to be on site and assist the first families moving into their ShelterBox tents." 

New Zealand-based SRT volunteer Arnold Kelly setting up camps in the Philippines providing emergency shelter to families made homeless by Typhoon Washi.

Within two months, more than 7,000 ShelterBox tents were set up in Dadaab, providing shelter, comfort and dignity to thousands of families, making it the largest delivery of ShelterBox aid that year. 

Urgently needed shelter 

Two other SRT volunteers from New Zealand who have just recently returned home have been on deployment in the Philippines responding to the devastation caused by Typhoon Washi. Arnold Kelly and Lyndon Tamblyn were deployed with two Filipino SRT volunteers in the Southeast Asian country distributing urgently needed shelter as recent flooding stretched relief operations on the island of Mindanao. More than 1,200 lives were reported lost and over 10,000 homes were destroyed. 

"This was my fourth deployment to the Philippines and that country can certainly throw up many challenges in all aspects of our work," said Kelly. "This time around it was the heat – it was scorching there and setting up tents daily in that high level of humidity was challenging at times. All the hard work was paid off though when we saw the joy on people’s faces when they moved into their new homes." 

To date, two ShelterBox camps have been set up in the worst affected areas of Cagayan de Oro and Iligan providing new homes for around 600 families. The Moro National Liberations Front (MNLF) has been helping the SRTs put up ShelterBox tents. 

New Zealand-based SRT volunteer Lyndon Tamblyn demonstrating to local scouts how to set up tents at Calaanan camp in Cagayan de Oro.

"We trained the MNLF in setting up ShelterBox tents at the Calaanan evacuation site in Cagayan de Oro," said Tamblyn. "Their help was invaluable in terms of how quick we distributed emergency shelter to families in need at the time when they needed it the most." 

Kelly and Tamblyn carried out ongoing needs assessments and delivered much needed emergency shelter and lifesaving supplies into the area. 

Disaster struck 

Both SRT volunteers were also amongst the first to be mobilized to Christchurch almost a year ago when a 6.3-magnitude earthquake hit the South Island city causing significant loss of life, casualties and damage to infrastructure. Arnold and Lyndon happened to be in the area with Walter van der Kley, an SRT volunteer from downtown Christchurch, when the disaster struck and they immediately began to assess the need. 

ShelterBox New Zealand Director, Lindsay Thorburn, was having lunch on the outskirts of Christchurch when the quake hit. "I was in the café about two kilometers out of the town center when the quake hit," said Thorburn. "It was horrific. There were plates of food and cups of coffee smashing and flying all around me. People cut and bleeding everywhere, luckily I was not one of them. For the next five hours I helped those who were in most need." 

Lyndon and Arnold responding to the earthquake that struck Christchurch in February 2011.

Following the assessments of the Kiwi SRT working in Christchurch, 120 prepositioned ShelterBoxes from Australia were sent to Auckland and a further 200 disaster relief tents were sent from the United Kingdom. 

ShelterBox would like to thank every individual from New Zealand who has contributed to its huge aid efforts and who has contributed to the protection of hundreds of thousands of lives. Wherever you are in the world, ShelterBox wishes you a very happy Waitangi Day!
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