Earthquake survivors struggling to find food, water and shelter in Jacmel, an area in southern Haiti, received 250 boxes from an organization founded by the Rotarians. The unassuming-looking 110-pound ShelterBox can be used as a 49-gallon water tank, food box or cot. Its contents include a 10-person tent, vinyl-insulated sleeping mats, thermal blankets, water purification tablets, flat-pack water containers, a trenching shovel to dig latrines, and other items specific to the emergency at hand.
Former Royal Navy search-and-rescue diver Tom Henderson, a Rotarian living in Cornwall, England, noticed that first responses to emergencies consisted of food, water and medicine—but rarely shelter. Henderson researched the idea, sourcing equipment and urging the Rotary Club of Helston-Lizard in Cornwall to adopt the project. The first 143 boxes went to earthquake victims in Gujarat, India, in January 2001. In 2005, following the Indian Ocean tsunami that devastated several islands, ShelterBox shipped 22,000 boxes, making a major impact in disaster relief. It is now the largest Rotary Club project in the world, with affiliates and partners worldwide.