On the outside, it’s a medium-sized, bright green box. But inside, it’s a lifeline, a temporary home for those who have lost theirs.
Five-person tents that can withstand hurricane-force wind and monsoon-like rain are stuffed inside what are called ShelterBoxes and delivered by a non-profit organization of the same name.
“ShelterBox works to get to the most remote communities, the most vulnerable communities that wouldn’t otherwise receive aid,” explained ShelterBox Canada Executive Director Stephanie Christensen. “It’s everything that a family needs, customized to their needs and an emergency shelter right away.”
Christensen said she has responded to incidents in places like Fiji, the Philippines and Gaza. Aside from all the major tragic events that receive international attention, she said they also provide aid in areas that may not receive significant attention or news coverage.
She shared a story of a mother and a baby in Fiji who had lost their home after a category-5 cyclone caused massive flooding.
“They had to hold their kids above their heads for about three hours before that water went down,” Christensen recalled. “The whole community had to sleep in this one building until ShelterBox was able to come.”
Christensen said she personally erected the tent for the mother.
“The look of relief on her face to have possessions of her own again, to have a home for her baby.”
Despite offering their services, she said they haven’t had to respond in Saskatchewan, considering governments and local organizations are very competent in how they deal with local disasters. The group has been in existence in Canada since 2010 and while ShelterBox may not be as prominent as other aid groups in Canada, Christensen said they are working to raise awareness.
Right now the group is primarily funded through Rotary International, but Christensen said they also accept donations.