West Point Rotary teams with ShelterBox to aid typhoon victims in Philippines

WEST POINT — Every year, hundreds of thousands of families across the world lose everything when disasters strike. Through no fault of their own and often with no warning, families lose their homes, their possessions and their livelihoods. The latest natural disaster occurred only recently in the Philippines.

The top priority of many aid organizations is to provide food, water and medical care to help people survive the immediate aftermath of a disaster. Without protection from the elements though, survivors are at a higher risk as they await nourishment or medical attention.

A Rotary club in Cornwall, England, recognized that little or no assistance was given in terms of proper shelter to help victims through the first few days, weeks and months as they tried to rebuild their lives. In response was born ShelterBox, the premier international aid organization that provides emergency shelter and life-saving equipment following disasters such as earthquakes, volcanoes, floods, hurricanes, cyclones, tsunamis or conflicts.

Each box supplies an extended family with a tent, cooking supplies, water filtering devices, and life-saving equipment to use while they are displaced or homeless. The contents are tailored depending on the nature and location of the disaster, with great care taken sourcing every item to ensure it is robust enough to be of lasting value.

The donation amount to sponsor each box is $1,000, which includes delivery direct to those who need it. Each box bears its own unique number so as a donor, you can track your box all the way to its recipient country via the website. Help does not end with the delivery of the box, however. Highly trained ShelterBox Response Teams distribute boxes on the ground, working closely with local organizations, international aid agencies and a global network of volunteers. ShelterBox has now worked in more than 90 countries.

ShelterBox is working in the Philippines following what meteorologists are calling the most powerful storm ever to make landfall. With winds of 195 mph and gusts up to 235 mph, Typhoon Haiyan (known locally as Yolanda), which struck the Philippines Nov. 7, is reported to be the largest storm ever recorded, surpassing Hurricane Camille in 1969. Thousands of people are feared dead and thousands more left homeless.

Students at West Point Middle and High School were able to see a ShelterBox up close and personal last Friday. Wayne Childes — the ShelterBox chairman for Rotary District 7610 — brought a ShelterBox from his home in Northern Virginia, set it up and answered questions from students during their lunch period. To learn more about ShelterBox, visit the website at shelterboxusa.org.