Frequently asked questions

Questions about ShelterBox

1. General

1a. What is ShelterBox?

ShelterBox is an international disaster relief charity and a global Rotary club project. The charity was set up in 2000 to provide rapid disaster aid to families all over the world made homeless by disasters. The first disaster we responded to was an earthquake in Gujarat, India, in January 2001. ShelterBox is also supported by affiliated organisations.

1b. What does ShelterBox do?

ShelterBox responds instantly to disasters providing shelter, warmth and dignity anywhere in the world. A ShelterBox supplies an extended family with a tent and lifesaving equipment to use while they are displaced or homeless. The contents are tailored depending on the nature and location of the disaster, with great care taken sourcing every item to ensure it is robust enough to be of lasting value.

1c. What is the link with Rotary?

In the early days of ShelterBox, Rotary Club of Helston-Lizard adopted the concept as its millennium project. Since then, and with the continued support from Rotary, ShelterBox has grown remarkably and is now a Rotary Project Partner. This partnership enables both of us to collaborate more closely to bring relief and temporary shelter to survivors of natural disasters worldwide. The project partner agreement builds on both of our strengths in responding to disasters all over the world.

1d. Who funds ShelterBox?

ShelterBox is funded by public donations. From initial support of the local community, the project now receives donations from supporters worldwide. We are also part of the Department of International Development's (DFID) Rapid Response Facility that allows us to access funding within 72 hours of a disaster, enabling us to do what we do best - delivering emergency shelter and equipment to families in the shortest time possible. Public donations continue to be of vital importance to us as the Rapid Response Facility will only be activated in the event of a large-scale crisis. We do not receive funding from the DEC (Disasters Emergency Committee).

1e. Value for money?

ShelterBox benefits from the tireless efforts of a strong and extensive support base of volunteers. In addition to passionate and dedicated volunteers, ShelterBox boasts a highly committed and performance driven body of professional staff.

2. About our aid

2a. What aid does ShelterBox provide?

We deliver the essentials people need to begin rebuilding their lives in the aftermath of a disaster. Every time we respond to a natural disaster or humanitarian crisis, we ensure that the aid we provide is tailored to the needs of the communities we’re helping.

2b. What's in a ShelterBox?

The contents of a ShelterBox will vary depending on the disaster but below is an example of a generic pack:

  • Tent
  • Blankets and groundsheets
  • Durable plastic box
  • Mosquito net
  • Stove
  • Water containers and purification
  • Cooking equipment
  • Tool kit
  • Children’s activity pack

A range of equipment is kept in stock. This allows ShelterBox to be flexible and adjust the contents of the box according to the environment they are going to.

2c. Do you send anything else?

In any disaster a large number of people without shelter will inevitably be children. Schools will often have been destroyed along with homes and other buildings. ShelterBox will, therefore, sometimes include ‘School Boxes' in their consignments along with the usual green boxes. These contain essential supplies for teachers, including blackboard paint and chalk, along with school equipment for 50 children.

2d. How big is the box and what does it weigh?

Each box is 24” (570mm) wide by 33” (842mm) long by 22” (602mm) deep – giving a capacity of 40.7gallons (185 litres). Fully packed, a box weighs between 110lbs and 130lbs (50 to 60kg).

2e. Can donors track their box?

Donors who choose to sponsor a ShelterBox are given an identification number, which can be used to see the final destination of the ShelterBox on our website.

3. Operations

3a. How quickly can you respond?

ShelterBox aims to promptly get its boxes and a response team to the scene of a disaster, anywhere worldwide. The exact time will depend on the circumstances and we can only distribute aid within safe and achievable, operational parameters. On each occasion we will take advice from the UK’s Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) and other relevant bodies. However, our aim is always to provide immediate aid wherever possible.

3b. Who decides where you send aid?

The decisions on whether to send aid, how many boxes and what goes in the boxes are made by our staff, based on the identified need and available resources at the time of the disaster and the charity’s donation income. ShelterBox constantly monitors situations around the world through specialist channels, allowing it to make informed decisions about any response. As well as initiating deployments of emergency shelter independently, it also responds to requests for assistance from other aid agencies and government organisations.

3c. How does aid then get to its destination?

Aid is delivered to the disaster area by whatever means are appropriate and accompanied by volunteer response teams. These teams will charter vehicles locally and work with whatever other organisations are appropriate. These could include: other aid agencies; local armed forces, police and government bodies; Rotary and other local non-governmental organisations (NGO’s) bodies, response teams are used to finding alternative forms of transport, whether taking helicopters to the mountains of Nepal, or building rafts in Sri Lanka to reach communities cut off by flooding.

3d. Do you keep aid ready to go?

ShelterBox has stocks of ShelterBoxes and other materials in strategic locations around the world. These pre-positioned locations include Dubai, Singapore, Melbourne, Panama, Curacao, Nairobi. These are sometimes used as the first wave of aid into a disaster area to significantly reduce the response time.

3e. Can donations be given for a specific location?

ShelterBox is usually unable to accept time or location specific donations. The way we work means we have to be prepared for immediate response. Donations received before a disaster will often be those that are used to respond to it. Donations stimulated because of a disaster may be used to prepare for the next one.

3f. How do you source aid materials

ShelterBox only uses new, good quality equipment and obtains all material from leading suppliers at competitive rates. It is crucial that equipment is durable, well constructed and capable of standing up to a range of potential climatic & challenging conditions.

3g. What tents do you provide?

As well as the familiar design of a white dome tent, which has evolved over years of ShelterBox experience in countries around the world, we use a range of other tents, each suited to different situations.

3h. How long does the equipment last?

The humanitarian aid provided by ShelterBox aims to cover the immediate need for shelter in the wake of a disaster. We would anticipate it being used for at least six months and expect it to last for years if treated reasonably. That’s why it is important the aid we send is hard wearing and long lasting.

3i. Do you work with other aid organisations?

ShelterBox response teams accompany our aid in order to make sure it gets directly to those people who most need it. Response teams have worked with other aid agencies over the years such as Save The Children, The Red Crescent and The UNICEF, Oxfam, UNHCR and World Vision.

4. Supporting ShelterBox

4a. How can I give money to ShelterBox?

Donations can be made by filling in a donation form or via our donation page. Alternatively, cheques should be made payable to The ShelterBox Trust and sent to Unit 1, Water ma Trout, Helston, Cornwall TR13 0LW. Or telephone: +44 (0) 1326 569782. Where an address is provided, ShelterBox will send a receipt for all donations – unless the donor explicitly states this is not required.

4b. How does Gift Aid work?

Gift aid is a government initiative, it enables us to increase your donation by 25% at no extra cost to you. It is important to the charity as it increases the amount of aid we can supply to those who have lost everything after a disaster. If an individual is a UK Income and/or Capital Gains tax payer, ShelterBox can claim Gift Aid on personal donations and on sponsored events.

4c. How do I get more information about ShelterBox?

Further information is available from our about us and news pages, you can also email any queries to We're available on Facebook and Twitter, you can also call the ShelterBox office on +44 (0) 1326 569782 between 9am-5pm.

4d. How do I raise money for ShelterBox?

Most of our fundraisers organise their own events and activities – anything from sponsored walks and coffee mornings to fire walking and a 100-kilometre ‘ultra marathon’ in Lapland! Please email should you need any support, fliers or posters.

Follow us

Join our group on social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, Flickr or YouTube. Or sign up to our newsletter to get regular updated about our work around the world. You can receive it by post or email. Click here to sign up.