Providing shelter and hope in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan

Bill Decker, a Rotary member and ShelterBox Response Team member, with children in the Philippines.

Bill Decker, a Rotary club past president and ShelterBox Response Team member, with children in the Philippines.

By Bill Decker, past president of the Rotary Club of Philadelphia, chair of the ShelterBox USA Board, and a ShelterBox Response Team member

I am on the ground on the island of Bantayan in the province of Cebu, Philippines, where the eye of Super Typhoon Haiyan (locally called Yolanda) passed over just a couple weeks ago. The devastation is unlike anything I’ve seen, and ShelterBox’s ongoing efforts will be required to alleviate the suffering here of the hundreds of thousands of displaced people. This is not my first visit to the Philippines as a ShelterBox Response Team member. 

This is an unfathomable tragedy. But I am amazed at the resilience of the people – the hope of the families, the smiles from the children. The hope that we’re bringing them by tending to their shelter needs is only possible because of the generous people who support ShelterBox.

Rotary and ShelterBox

As I reflect upon my past deployment experiences to major disasters both in the Philippines and elsewhere, it’s hard to think of a more productive partnership than that of Rotary and ShelterBox. Time and time again, Rotary has been there to help, and this recent calamity is no different. Rotary members in Cebu city helped ShelterBox with some very useful transport and logistics support, as well as other key contacts that helped get our response moving quickly once we arrived in country.

I’ve spent the last few days distributing ShelterBox aid with members of a Philippines Marine Corps Reserve Unit, which is also a result of a Rotary contact in the region. This type of volunteer power is invaluable, as are the Rotary generated trucks which moved our aid to Bantayan over the long and arduous journey from Cebu city for this particular distribution.

When it comes to funding, Rotary members absolutely surge and rise to the challenge following a large disaster like Typhoon Haiyan. ShelterBox is grateful for the support. A very high number of clubs also provide ongoing support to ShelterBox, which is critical as we respond to the myriad of other serious disasters around the world that get less media coverage.

Outpouring of support

The outpouring of funding, accommodation, transport, storage, translation, networking, and manual labor from Rotary members continues to have an impact as we together seek to provide shelter, warmth and dignity to the survivors of both natural disasters and other humanitarian crises.

As a member and past president of the Rotary Club of Philadelphia, I know the commitment my fellow Rotary members share in putting Service Above Self, and this is certainly evident in the desire to help following disasters. I’ve also had the privilege of playing a role in setting the course for ShelterBox USA as chairman of the board since 2010. I’ve watched the relationship between Rotary and ShelterBox grow into a powerful partnership that touches the lives of hundreds of thousands in their darkest hours. Please join us, and help us together bring relief to those most in need.

Source: Rotary Voices

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