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Friday 13 July 2012

Bastille Day
Bastille Day
Response Team member Gerard Studer in the Republic of the Congo earlier this year, after an industrial accident destroyed the homes of many Congolese families

Two hundred and twenty three years ago, troops stormed the Bastille, a medieval prison in Paris. A pivotal moment at the beginning of the French Revolution, the celebration of this day became known as Fête de la Fédération, or Bastille Day. Since 1790 the 14 July has been a day to celebrate the establishment of a constitutional monarchy in France as well as the French culture. ShelterBox is celebrating today with its affiliate in France. 
From raising funds and awareness to volunteering in the field, ShelterBox France is an invaluable member of the ShelterBox family. 
Gerard Studer is not only the Deputy General Manager and a Board Member of ShelterBox France but also the ShelterBox Representative in his Rotary District. He is at the forefront of the partnership between ShelterBox France and the Scouts et Guides de France (SGDF); and also visited Madagascar and the Republic of the Congo this year as a ShelterBox Representative. 
When did you get involved with ShelterBox France? In May 2009 I attended a Rotarian training seminar where I saw a ShelterBox demo box. Everybody there wanted to see it, feel it and touch it. We were all enthusiastic about the project. I handed my business card to the speaker telling him to give me a call if he needed help. The next day I received that call. That year my Rotary club raised enough money for 31 ShelterBoxes. Now we have raised enough for 52 boxes.

French speaking Scouts helped out in our Madagascar deployment in February this year

You went to Madagascar when ShelterBox responded to the cyclones that hit last February as a ShelterBox Representative. What did you do there? I assisted the ShelterBox Response Team (SRT) members with translations. I was also proud to be heavily involved with 25 scout leaders there, who helped us set up almost 200 tents for nearly 200 displaced families. We hiked 15 kilometres in the jungle to reach these families and to speed our pace up to return on time to where we were staying we sang scout songs all the way. When we made it on time, the scouts, the ShelterBox team and the local community joined in the singing too. 
You then went to the Republic of the Congo as a ShelterBox Representative last March when ShelterBox responded to an arms depot that exploded in the capital of Brazzaville. What did you do there? This deployment was very different to that of Madagascar where we worked deep in the countryside. When I got to Brazzaville the scene reminded me of Port-au-Prince in Haiti when the quake hit in 2010. I worked with the SRT in a tough urban environment, very different to Madagascar. We worked very closely with major international non-governmental organisations, government bodies and French international companies for logistical support in our operations.
The deployment in the Republic of the Congo would have been more challenging without the amazing involvement of the local Rotary clubs and their powerful networking. Thanks to Rotarians I was able to meet Government Ministers who were eager to hear more about what ShelterBox was doing for their people.

Brazzaville, Republic of the Congo in April 2012. A ShelterBox Response Team distributed 754 ShelterBox tents
We also worked with local Scouts setting up a camp together in the heart of the city. It's been incredible working with Scouts worldwide and seeing them bring their expertise and enthusiasm to help their own communities. 
Would you like to say anything else about your work with ShelterBox France? I like to think that no matter how far ShelterBox goes around the world to provide our ShelterBox Solution, we should never forget that our primary mission ground is our home country. ShelterBox has a very likeable concept that has developed a high level of acceptance in the humanitarian world. It is very well received wherever we deploy. But let's bear in mind that our everyday work starts right here, right now, in our families, in our neighbourhood, in our business community, in our village, through our social media channels, to develop awareness and raise money. Good luck everyone and happy Bastille Day!
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