How we work

Supporting families to rebuild their lives

Every family deserves a place to call home after disaster. 

We work with disaster-affected communities to provide the emergency shelter, essential items and training needed to support families in the long process of rebuilding their lives.

Every disaster is different so we have a flexible approach. We listen and learn from the communities we work with to make sure we provide the right support.

We often go further, working with hard to reach communities who are overlooked by others.

Before a disaster happens, we make sure we are ready to help. We store aid in strategic locations around the world so we can get it to the families who need it as quickly as possible.

We work with trusted local partners and we have a network of incredible volunteers who are ready to help at a moment’s notice.

Our teams can travel by foot, boat, helicopter or tuk-tuk to get to the families who need your support – whatever it takes to get to the people who need us.

Learn more about how it all happens.

Why shelter?

Recovery starts with shelter. Having somewhere dry and warm to sleep, to prepare meals and be with your family is vital for starting the long process of rebuilding your life.  

Emergency shelter offers privacy and helps to preserve your dignity. It offers protection from the elements, animals and disease. It helps keep communities together. It can help to bring back a sense of normality, allowing children to go back to school.

Most importantly, it empowers families to start the process of getting back on their feet.

An Indonesian family inside a ShelterBox tent. Young child drinking from a milk bottle being held by her mother.

Learning what families need

Families who have lost their homes in a disaster or who have been forced to flee violence and war deserve sturdy and durable emergency shelter. That’s exactly what we provide.

We work with disaster-hit communities in hard to reach places to understand how we can support them in rebuilding their lives. Every disaster is different and so is every community, so we spend time talking to affected families to make sure we can offer the right support at the right time to help them recover.  

Empowering communities

Our work doesn’t stop once we have provided families with emergency shelter and essential aid items.

We also offer comprehensive training to make sure families can make the best use of the items.

We use a train-the-trainer approach to empower communities to rebuild and maintain their homes long after our teams leave.

It’s not just about teaching people to construct shelters as quickly as possible. It’s about making the most of the aid items, so that families have the best possible chance of recovery.

Learning and improving

Wherever possible we go back to visit families and we ask questions to understand how helpful our support has been. This means we can keep on learning and improving the support that we give.

As part of that learning and development process, we’ve started to provide a small amount of cash to families, alongside essential shelter materials and training. It complements the support we already provide, because there are times when adding cash to the mix helps communities recover better.

See how we’re using cash to help families recover here.

Deciding when to offer support

graphic of aid items ShelterBox have given to those we support including tent, hammer, spade, saw and cooking pot

We are committed to seeing a world where no family goes without shelter after disaster and we help as many families as we can.

But we are a charity with limited resources and knowing who, where and when we can help can be hard.

Take a look at our response criteria which helps us decide when we can help.

Response Teams

Our highly trained ShelterBox response teams are always ready.  

Many are volunteers who train alongside members of staff and take time out from their own families and jobs to help other families around the world when disaster strikes.

They play a crucial role in getting our aid to the families who need it most – but they do so much more than that. They get to know communities and work with local people to understand what’s needed and support families in making the most of the items provided. They think on their feet to solve logistical issues and they work with local governments and partners to support as many people as possible.

Getting to hard to reach communities

Our operations and logistics teams are critical to making sure we can offer the right support at the right time. They work hard to ensure that when we provide support, we offer the very best aid items and training.

We store aid in strategic locations around the world so that we can deliver it to the families who need it as quickly as possible.

Our Theory of Change

Our new Theory of Change sums up what we will do and why to support communities affected by crisis. It builds on our 20+ years of experience and on the latest evidence of the vital role shelter can play in enabling people to recover and rebuild.

Our focus is on self-led recovery. However, we know that growing numbers of vulnerable people are unable to recover without support.

This leaves them more vulnerable to other risks, such as disease, poverty and environmental threats like extreme weather events. Our Theory of Change commits us to accompanying people on their first steps to recovery, because this increases their chances of further rebuilding their lives.

Click below to discover more about our Theory of Change, including a larger version of our diagram.

Learn more

ShelterBox theory of change diagram

Support our work

Donate today to help us support more families who urgently need shelter after disaster

Find out more

Our Aid

Discover the aid items that help families rebuild their lives after disaster

Our impact

Meet the people your support is helping

About us

We provide emergency shelter to families who have lost their home to disaster, enabling them to rebuild their lives.