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ShelterBox shirt off, Rotary shirt on

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In March 2011, ShelterBox Response Team (SRT) member and Rotarian Peter Pearce (AU) was sent on deployment to storm-hit Madagascar. He was part of the second team in to deliver emergency shelter to families displaced in a southern area completely devastated by a cyclone. Having seen the desperate circumstances these families were living in, Peter wanted to do more for them upon his return to Australia.

‘People were living with nothing: no homes, no food, no water, and completely at the mercy of the elements. Where they were living was so far removed from the capital Antananarivo, there was such a great need. I made a decision there that when I returned to Australia, I would take off my ShelterBox shirt, put on my Rotary shirt, and try to assist those people who have nothing when we have five of everything.

‘I’m part of Gosford North Rotary Club in Sydney and I knew they would be able to help. We ended up raising enough money for goods to fill a 40 foot shipping container including 1,000 hand-knitted woolen blankets, water purification units as clean water is such a high demand, new and used clothing, school satchels, sunglasses, school reference books and novels.

‘A team of four of us from the Rotary club went over in October 2011 to have a look at the situation again to determine the recipients of our aid and talk to the consignees. Everyone was very supportive including the Antananarivo Rotary Club, amongst other clubs in Madagascar, as well as the country’s disaster response unit BNGRC, who all were happy to support us and help us bring in the items. We then went back in June 2012 to deliver all of the items to the people ourselves. We wanted to deliver things personally like ShelterBox, which I think is very important.

‘We also decided to take in with us sewing programmes where we brought sewing machines, material and instructors to train people, assisting them in starting a business to set up something sustainable that provides them a livelihood.

‘The Madagascan youth have nothing to do; they don’t even have footballs even though the sport is popular there. We therefore also brought 200 full soccer strips along with footballs and nets for the young people to play a game together on Saturday afternoons.

‘The partnership between ShelterBox and Rotary is invaluable as both organisations support each other’s work, this project being a prime example. Madagascar’s Rotary clubs and BNGRC assisted ShelterBox with logistics on its deployment in the country. Through these contacts, this Rotary project has been a success. Both ShelterBox and Rotary have worked together to reach their shared goal, helping families made homeless by disasters.

‘This container of goods has helped a small proportion of the people whose neighbourhoods were wiped out by the cyclone. Many more containers of goods are needed and therefore could be an ongoing project for our Rotary Club as well as other clubs.’