“The one thing we needed when we arrived here was to get some shelter for my children so they could hide from the hot sun.”
A Syrian family’s account of receiving a ShelterBox upon their arrival at a refugee camp, has had a profound impact on Singleton Diggers general-manager, Gerard McMillan.
Although they have been purchasing at least two boxes at a cost of $1000 each through their community chest scheme since 2009, he says this is the first time they have heard from a recipient.
“The boxes are numbered and stored in a warehouse for when they are needed so we are usually only given a list that indicates what country it has been deployed to and the date it was sent,” he explains.
However, hearing the story of how 43-year-old Syrian refugee Ibrahim, his wife and three young children were forced to flee their hometown, has reinforced how important their continued contribution is to the international disaster relief organisation.
A relationship that began when former board member, Fay Brown, suggested they make a donation in the aftermath of the catastrophic Black Saturday bushfires that claimed 173 lives in Victoria.
Each ShelterBox is designed to help people who have tragically lost everything whether it be due to a natural disaster or conflict.
They contain a family tent and other useful items like a water filtration kit and solar lights.
But it is the words of Ibrahim that really illustrate how valuable these boxes are.
“The tent made us feel independent and safe after all the bad conditions we faced during the displacement”.
Mr McMillan says there are also a number of Rotary groups in the local area who have also contributed to the charity.
“Muswellbrook, Merriwa, Denman, Murrurundi and the Rotary Club on Singleton on Hunter,” he explains.
East Timor, the Philippines, Haiti and African nations, like Niger, Cameroon and Ethiopia, are some of the locations the locally sponsored boxes have been distributed to.
“We read about these things in the newspaper but to be able to help in a practical way on an international scale is pleasing,” Mr McMillan says.
The boxes are tailored to suit the needs of the beneficiary which not only enables them to better service those who need help but also ensure donor’s money is not wasted.