ShelterBox Response Team member Bill Woodard (left) stands with his team of volunteers in the ShelterBox booth at the Good Earth Home & Garden Show
When Typhoon Haiyan, the strongest tropical storm in recorded history, cut its path of destruction across the central islands of the Philippines in November of 2013, ShelterBox was already there providing shelter to those who lost their homes to a devastating earthquake just the month before.
Philippines following Cyclone Haiyan 2013
Communication from the region was lost for more than a day after the typhoon. As the world waited to hear from survivors, Anderson Cooper of CNN was able to establish contact via satellite phone with ShelterBox Response Team member Mark Dyer, whose team had responded to the earthquake and was now safely ensconced waiting out the typhoon.
Halfway around the world, Karen Ramus in Eugene, OR heard Anderson Cooper interview Mark and rushed to learn more about ShelterBox:
“the little humanitarian aid organization that was doing so much to help families in their greatest time of need.”
Karen’s query and desire to help led to her to inviting ShelterBox to participate in the Good Earth Home and Garden Show, an event her company produces each year. She suggested a fundraiser in which she would offer support; $10,000 in matching gifts, as well as free space and advertising.
Karen’s offer was shared with Liz Thwing, a long time ShelterBox Ambassador from the Eugene Delta Rotary Club who took the idea to her Rotary Club members. Since then Delta Rotary has planned and executed this 2.5 day event each year over the past four years. More than 40 Club Members and 10-12 Interact and Rotaract members work hard for ShelterBox each year.
Four years later, Eugene Delta Rotary still continues to enthusiastically support this event. In 2016, the club’s hard work produced $19,000 in donations and totaled $80,000 in donations over four years. Delta Rotary and Karen Ramus are already busy planning for next year with the goal of breaking $100,000 in total donations to help families who have lost everything to a disaster.
Learn more about the Good Earth Home & Garden Show
In 2016, something else happened at the Good Earth Home Show that would ultimately benefit those on the other side of the world.
Richard Hackett, president of the Fern Ridge Rotary, stopped by the Delta Rotary Booth during the show and met Bill Woodard, a ShelterBox Response Team (SRT) member. Hackett shared the story of the small humanitarian organization called Sea Mercy, that he and his wife, Stephanie, founded in the remote islands of the South Pacific.
Sea Mercy provides the logistics, via participating volunteer boat/yacht owners, to deliver free critical care, disaster relief, and economic development programs for thousands of at-risk remote islanders of the South Pacific.
The story prompted Woodard to set up a meeting between ShelterBox and Sea Mercy and just one month later, Cyclone Winston slammed into Fiji. Sea Mercy and ShelterBox were among the first to respond with lifesaving equipment in some of the hardest hit and most remote islands. The Sea Mercy team was critical to ShelterBox in providing sea transport, providing local knowledge, warehousing, and other logistical needs.
Photos of Sea Mercy and ShelterBox delivering aid to the island nation of Fiji following Cyclone Winstone in 2016
Without Sea Mercy, ShelterBox would have been delayed a minimum of two weeks – which was the time it took the Australian and New Zealand Navies to arrive.
In those early and critical days of disaster, Sea Mercy was the perfect collaborative partner for ShelterBox by quickly getting to some of the hardest-hit islands. Because of this, ShelterBox ultimately provided emergency shelter, tarps, water filters, tools, solar lights, mosquito nets and blankets to more than 1,250 families in Fiji.
Ultimately, because of the larger hauling capacities of Navy ships and helicopters and Sea Mercy’s need to shift its focus to provide medical assistance, water purification, and other supplies to remote islands, the partnership was retired.
After Cyclone Winston, ShelterBox responded to eight additional disasters around the world, including: Syria, Iraq, Cameroon, Niger, Tanzania, Equator, and Haiti. Sea Mercy continues to work with communities in Fiji providing medical, dental, economic development and rebuilding schools.
Learn more about Sea Mercy
See the Fiji deployment photo gallery