Shelter for the Homeless

‘Shelter is more than just a roof – it’s a home. It’s the foundation for life, for families, for communities, for peace.’-Shelter Box.

by Charlie, Ella, Hannah, Issy and Kim

Pictured: “What is Home to You?” – a display made by Penrice Students

On the 8th of November 2013, Typhoon Haiyan hit portions of South East Asia – particularly the Philippines. It left 1200 families homeless. This is one of many disasters that happen often.  An estimation of the homeless was recorded in 2005 at 100 million people; many of these are a direct consequence of natural disasters or conflict.

As part of BBC School Report, a group of Y7 students from Penrice Academy investigate what home means to their peers. They asked students to note down on a post it, “what home means to you? and “what three things you would take if you had 2 minutes to leave your house?” The responses were both heart-warming and heart-breaking when considering that this is the reality for people who have been affected by natural disasters or conflict. Many students stipulated that home was a safe place, a happy place, a place to relax and the majority chose to sacrifice material things for family, pets and photographs.

Charlie, Ella, Hannah, Issy and Kim from Penrice Academy speak to ShelterBox, an international charity focused on disaster relief, and find out who they are, what their volunteers do and how individuals can help.

We had the privilege to talk to Pam Furnish, a volunteer who has worked with ShelterBox from 2011:

Issy: Can you tell us about ShelterBox?

Pam: ShelterBox is an international disaster relief charity that specialises in the provision of emergency shelter and other essential items that people might need in a time of disaster.

Kim: Can you give us an insight into what you do as a volunteer?

Pam “I do lots of different things. My primary task as a volunteer is to show people around the visitor centre in Truro. I talk to the visitors about the work that we do, our current deployment and about the equipment we send to families in need; I also, occasionally, go out into the community and talk to groups about ShelterBox and the work we do. I pack the boxes at the Helston warehouse, and that’s really good fun, I enjoy doing that; I’ve also done simple things such as putting leaflets into envelopes ready to be posted out. So all sorts of different things but one thing I don’t do is go out into the field and deliver aid.

Ella: What’s the worst disaster you have dealt with throughout your time at ShelterBox?

Pam: For me personally… there are two sides to this; I think there is the biggest disaster in terms of the scale of people who were involved and that has got to be the earthquake that hit Haiti in 2011/2012. That was such a devastating event and it used up a lot of resources from ShelterBox so we were very busy actually talking about it and sending aid.

The other biggest disaster is the conflict in Syria; very often people forget that ShelterBox respond to disasters caused by conflict – it’s not just natural disasters. The war in Syria has been going on for 7 years and so many people have been affected and are in need of help but because of their location in the world – the danger of being in a warzone – it’s very difficult for ShelterBox to operate efficiently there. Luckily we do have some partners there to help us so there are ways we can help but there is a lot more we wish we could do.

Ella: What is your favourite thing about volunteering for ShelterBox?

Pam: I think the best thing is when I have shown some visitors around the visitor centre – who are not familiar with the charity, they haven’t heard of ShelterBox – and they say “wow – this is amazing, how can we support ShelterBox better?” So it’s giving information that inspires people to either donate money or maybe even become a volunteer themselves. So my favourite thing is inspiring people.

Hannah: Can you explain why ShelterBox is so important and why people should volunteer?

Pam: There are lots of people in the world who are thrown into situations that are not of their making, that they have no control over. A disaster can happen to anybody, and it happens without warning, so to be able to help that family get back on their feet, I think, is the best thing in the world; to be able to do that from here, in Cornwall, to be able to reach out and help someone from the other side of the globe is amazing.

Charlie: We’ve been asking staff and students at school, but what does home mean to you personally?

Pam: Home to me is… lots of things! It’s an image of my husband sat in a chair, in front of a log fire, surrounded by our 2 dogs and our 2 cats. Home to me is about people and the place.

Kim: And finally, is there anything Penrice can do to raise awareness and help ShelterBox?

Pam: Absolutely! Everyone can talk about ShelterBox! Obviously if groups of people and schools can do fundraising for the charity then that is even better; but just by talking about us to your friends, and family, and neighbours, and telling people what we do and how they can get involved, helps us. And, it’s free – it doesn’t cost you anything to talk to people

Homelessness is devastating, but through ShelterBox we know there are always ways to help, such as talking to friends and family about ShelterBox and other charities that provide help and resources to the homeless, and fundraising through your school or local community group.

Help charities raise money to provide equipment such as: cooking pots; utensils; blankets; ground sheets; inflatable solar lights; 15-meter nylon rope; shelter box family tent; collapsible 15L water carriers; treated mosquitos’ nets; school bags and rugged multiuse containers. If you would like more information on this important charity follow the link; YOU can make a difference and save a life today.