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 Royal Navy Merlin & ShelterBox
ShelterBox Volunteer taking a ShelterBox to a waiting RN Merlin
Volunteers and ShelterBox

RNAS Culdrose helps train ShelterBox charity volunteers

Published: 21 Mar 2013

As part of close links with Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose new volunteers to the charity “ShelterBox”, who provide emergency shelter and lifesaving supplies in the aftermath of worldwide disasters, took part in a gruelling exercise testing wits and ingenuity.

“Understanding Field Operations” is a nine day course that selects relief workers who will deliver lifesaving green boxes around the world.

Volunteers undergo a week under canvas in sub-zero conditions, completing hours of rigorous activities including disaster role-play, fitness tests and endure minimal sleep patterns throughout simulating real life situations.

Tasked with organising stores, people and vital equipment a scenario based around an essential supply hub, (Culdrose) delivering boxes to disaster victims in the local area. The volunteers negotiate with naval personnel and use information to find a stash of ShelterBoxes. It’s a good chance to see what goes on at the base and how the Royal Navy operates.

ShelterBox was founded by Tom Henderson OBE, a Rotarian and former Royal Navy search and rescue diver, on 771 Search and Rescue Squadron, still based at Culdrose. He saw that most aid responses to disasters were food and medicine helping people survive the immediate aftermath. Little or no assistance was given in terms of proper shelter helping them through the first few days, weeks and months as they tried to rebuild their lives. ShelterBox was launched to fill that void.

“It’s good to see ShelterBox involved in a realistic exercise like this, working with the Royal Navy. We run similar training before we deploy on Operations and it’s valuable to know how we and ShelterBox work together”, said Lieutenant Dominic Rotherham of the Royal Navy from Culdrose.

From humble beginnings, with a shipment of 143 boxes to the Gujarat Indian Earthquake in 2001, ShelterBox sent over 13,500 boxes in 2004 when the South East Asian Tsunami struck, costing £6.75 million.

Each large green ShelterBox is tailored to a disaster but typically contains a large tent for an extended family, blankets, groundsheets, water storage, cooking utensils, a basic tool kit and a children’s activity pack. Since its inception, the charity has responded to almost 200 disasters in more than 75 countries.

Ross Preston, head of operations, was a Royal Marine for 18 years before joining ShelterBox. He got involved after an improvised explosive device left him with spinal damage, ending his Royal Marine career. “I’m no stranger to human misery,” he says, “but on my first deployment to The Congo it was nice not to be part of that misery – to know I was making it better, not worse.” 


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