ShelterBox was founded by Tom Henderson, a Rotarian and former Royal Navy search and rescue diver. He saw that the aid response to most disasters was in the form of food and medicine to help people survive the immediate aftermath.
Little or no assistance was given in terms of proper shelter to help them through the first few days, weeks and months as they tried to rebuild their lives. ShelterBox was launched to fill that void.
In 1999, Tom started researching the idea, sourcing equipment and twisting arms to get the project off the ground. His persistence paid off in April 2000 when ShelterBox was launched and the Rotary Club of Helston-Lizard in Cornwall adopted it as its millennium project. Little did they know that it would become the largest Rotary club project in the world, with affiliates in eight countries.
The first consignment of 143 boxes was sent to earthquake victims in the Indian state of Gujarat in January 2001. Over the next three years the project matured and by the end of 2004 nearly 2,600 boxes had been dispatched, following 16 major disasters. On 26 December 2004, news came of the devastating Indian Ocean Tsunami and ShelterBox faced its most significant challenge, one that would change its course forever. Donations and volunteers poured in and we were able to ramp up our operations on a scale unimaginable just six months earlier.
In 2005 we sent out more than 22,000 boxes, almost 10 times the number we had sent out in the previous three years. Not only were we sending aid to victims of the Tsunami, but we were also able to help those who had lost their homes in Hurricane Katrina in the USA and the massive earthquake that hit the Kashmir region of Pakistan. In just a few short months, ShelterBox had emerged as a major player in the field of international disaster relief.
We have continued to build on our Tsunami experience, helping as many people as we can, as quickly as we can, the moment disaster strikes.
We have now worked on every continent, responding to earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, typhoons, hurricanes, volcanoes and conflicts.