When islanders head into the Snug for coffee next weekend, they’ll pass by a sturdy white tent. While the Bowen iteration is for demonstration purposes, around the world similar tents shelter families in disaster zones.
The demonstration will be part of a Bowen Rotary fundraiser for people displaced by Cyclone Idai.
Last month, Cyclone Idai tore through Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi. An estimated 1.7 million people were in the path of the storm. Hundreds of people died, thousands went missing and hundreds of thousands more were forced from their homes. In the weeks since, heavy rain caused floodwaters’ rise, the risk of cholera along with them.
ShelterBox is an international charity, founded in 2000 in the U.K., that provides shelter and supplies to people in the aftermath of disasters. It currently has response teams in Malawi, where highly-trained volunteers are lending aid.
“Families require key aid items like emergency ShelterKits which contain heavy duty tarps, tools, and building materials to repair or rebuild homes; water filters to help protect from increased risk of water-borne disease; and mosquito nets to prevent against malaria,” reads a press release from ShelterBox Canada.
The organization is partnered with Rotary International, which has members all over the globe (more than 33,000 clubs) including in the Idai-affected areas. Rotarians are heavily involved in ShelterBox fundraising, Boweners included.
Rotary Bowen has raised more than $30,000 for Shelter Box since 2011. First for the tsunami that hit Japan in 2011 (and caused the Fukishima disaster), then for those affected by Typhoon Haiyan in 2013 and then for the Nepal earthquakes in 2015.
To educate islanders about ShelterBox and the Cyclone Idai disaster, Bowen Rotary has invited Chris Loat, the Shelterbox Ambassador for the area, to give a talk next Thursday (April 11) at 7:30 p.m. at Collins Hall. Rotary will then have the tent up over the weekend in front of the Snug and will be collecting donations for Malawi. Islanders can also donate directly to ShelterBox online.
Loat has intimate knowledge of ShelterBox, not only as its ambassador, but his own son has been a volunteer with the organization. Loat told Bowen Rotarian Robert Ballantyne (in a phone conversation shared with the Undercurrent with permission of both parties) that the volunteers are undergo rigorous training before entering these difficult, disturbing and dangerous areas.
Loat also explained that ShelterBox only deploys with the permission of local authorities. Then, once the situation has stabilized, the organization returns to see what worked and what didn’t.
“There are so many things that need doing in the world, and Rotarians, particularly, can be very passionate about these things. Perhaps a hospital is needed or some sort of medical support. If we rush off and build the building, and there’s no one to man it, then the building is not very useful,” said Loat as an example.
Ballantyne is organizing the Bowen fundraiser.
“Bowen Islanders have I think a greater sense of what’s going on in the world than almost any other community I’ve ever been in,” said Ballantyne. “I think the island perspective is different from other communities. And I think islanders understand that this is not that big a planet and what happens to people around the world does affect us in some way.”