February 10, 2011

Shelterbox USA: Reaching out to Rotary for Relief

Union Leader Correspondent
Local retiree Bill Dyer, a member of the Londonderry
 Rotary Club, speaks to Rotarians Wednesday
 about ShelterBox USA, which sends
 relief packages to those displaced by disasters.
LONDONDERRY -- At the Londonderry Rotary Club, helping one’s neighbors isn’t limited to townspeople.
Just one week into his membership at the local Rotary, Londonderry retiree Bill Dyer is helping his fellow
 Rotarians assist others halfway around the world.
Dyer and his wife, Dennie, serve as New England representatives for ShelterBox USA, and he’s hoping this week’s Rotary donation will be the start of a lengthy partnership between the charity and the local club.
Founded by a single British Rotarian
 in 2000, ShelterBox’s North American branch is based in Florida and provides boxes of aid to victims of both natural and manmade disasters, including floods, tsunamis, earthquakes, civil strife and hurricanes. Each box supplies an extended family of up to 10 people with a tent and essential equipment to use when they are displaced. A large tent, cooking utensils, food coolers, water sanitation equipment and other such items are tucked inside each shelter box. 

Most recently, aid was sent to flooding victims in Brazil, with emergency boxes distributed to about 60 Brazilian families this past weekend, according to the organization’s website. The American charity worked with its Brazilian counterpart, as well as international Rotary groups, to make the aid a reality, with continued relief efforts still under way. 
Rotary clubs currently contribute about half of ShelterBox’s donations, with support from about 5,000 Rotary clubs worldwide. 
During the club’s monthly meeting, held Wednesday at the Coach Stop Restaurant in Londonderry, the Londonderry Rotary Club donated $1,000 to the charity — enough to fund one shelter box for six months. 
The Dyers’ son, Mark, has been involved in ShelterBox for the past five years and just recently returned from Columbia, where floods have displaced thousands. 
“Because of the extreme flooding, as well as the drug conflicts in that country, Mark rode on a gun boat with the Columbian Marines to try and find a spot for the tents,” the elder Dyer said this week. “One of the biggest problems he encountered there was the fact that there wasn’t much dry land available for the tents.” 
Other assignments for the younger Dyer involved trips to Indonesia, Somalia, Niger and Haiti. 
Inspired by their son’s good works, the Dyers decided they too wished to lend a helping hand, on American soil. The couple joined in on ShelterBox’s New England outreach efforts this past summer, and since then have regularly traveled to Rotary clubs to offer information on the growing charity. After addressing Londonderry’s Rotary club Wedneday morning, the couple planned to speak to Rotarians in Concord today. 
“The group has reached around30,000boxessofar,”Dyer told local Rotarians yesterday. 
As the Dyers prepare to expand their outreach efforts, they hope to soon acquire their own “shelter box” to use as a visual aid during upcoming presentations. Bill Dyer noted that such assistance isn’t limited to those overseas: ShelterBox assisted countless Hurricane Katrina survivors in 2005. “We’re not political and we go everywhere help is needed,” he said. 
For more information, visit www.shelterboxusa.org. 

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