5 facts about ShelterBox’s partnership with Rotary

To mark World Rotary Day, discover 5 facts about ShelterBox’s partnership with Rotary.

22 February 2024

ShelterBox team members and Rotary volunteers in a warehouse in Morocco

Each year on 23rd February, Rotarians mark World Rotary Day. This date marks the anniversary of the first Rotary meeting in Chicago on 23rd February 1905. From that beginning, Rotary is now a global organisation that aims to create lasting change for the better.

Rotary have been an important part of ShelterBox’s history too. As such to celebrate this World Rotary Day, we’re sharing 5 facts about our partnership with Rotary.

1. Without Rotary, there wouldn’t be a ShelterBox

Black and white photo of men holding pieces of aid
Members of the Helston-Lizard Rotary Club founded ShelterBox in 2000

ShelterBox was founded in the year 2000 by the Rotary Club of Helston-Lizard.

Rotary Clubs were asked to come up with projects to celebrate the millennium. This club was inspired by stories in the news of disasters, and a wish to help people left with nothing afterwards. As a result the club created ShelterBox, with the modest aim to help 8 to 10 families a year with a box of aid. The idea really took off! ShelterBox became an independent organisation in 2003, but Rotary remained instrumental in ShelterBox’s impact and growth.

This partnership was reinforced in 2012 when ShelterBox became Rotary’s official project partner in disaster relief. To this day Rotary provide vital support for our emergency responses, as well as incredibly valuable awareness and fund raising. Keep reading to learn more!


2. Rotary is both a local and global organisation, as can be seen in their work

Woman sorting aid in Paraguay
Rotary and Rotaractors supported ShelterBox’s response in Paraguay – one of many countries where they have a presence!

Some people may know Rotary from their fundraising and charity work in the local community. While Rotary Clubs do work to support their local areas, Rotary as an organisation also aims to have a wider, global impact.

One example of this is that Rotary have worked to eradicate Polio worldwide. Eradicating an illness is ambitious. But through Rotary’s leadership and work, polio cases have reduced by 99.9%. Nearly 3 billion children in 122 countries have been immunised against the disease.

Rotary members can also be found in over 200 countries – that’s more than the United Nations! (Which includes 193 countries). Incidentally, Rotary members also helped found the UN.

This focus on global reach explains Rotary’s support of ShelterBox, as we work to supply shelter aid after disaster wherever it is needed. The Rotary motto is ‘service above self’ – something borne out by their actions!


3. Rotary are an active operational partner in many of our emergency responses

When disaster strikes, it’s important that we can respond as quickly as possible. Our contacts with Rotary have been a vital support for this many times.

People carrying aid items off of trucks
ShelterBox team members and Rotary volunteers unpack aid from trucks in Türkiye after the earthquake there

When a devastating earthquake struck Türkiye (formerly Turkey) near the border with Syria in February 2023, it led to over 3 million people becoming displaced. Rotary in Türkiye supported the government led response to the disaster. Rotary’s connections with the government’s emergency response authority, supply chain, logistics businesses and more allowed us to respond to the disaster and get aid on the move quickly to where it was needed. Members of Rotary Club of Istanbul and Rotary District 2430 also accompanied ShelterBox staff on assessment visits within 48 hours of the earthquake. Rotary volunteers then participated in train the trainer sessions on the best way to use the UN tents we supplied. They could then pass this on to the people who received the aid. Overall in Türkiye with Rotary’s help we supplied more than 2,500 tents, 6000 mattresses, 8000 blankets and more. Over 12,500 people were supported with aid in Türkiye and Syria after the earthquake.

Woman putting blankets in bag in Morocco
Rotary volunteers helped package up aid for distribution in Morocco, as well as many other things!

Unfortunately, Türkiye and Syria were not the only countries impacted by severe earthquakes in 2023. In September, a 6.8 magnitude quake struck Morocco. Villages in the Atlas Mountains near the epicentre of the earthquake were the worst hit. With roads blocked by rubble, and Morocco not having an emergency of this scale for some time, it was clear this could be a challenging response. We implemented the response in partnership with Association Le Grand Atlas and Rotary International. Communication with Rotary partners began on the day of the earthquake. We gained immediate assistance from the Rotary District Governor of 9010, Saadia Aglif, and Moroccan Rotary member, Mo Sbai (Rotary Club of Salt Lake City). They both helped to speed up the process of getting aid in-country and made crucial introductions to Moroccan contacts. Members of the Rotary Club of Majorelle, Marrakech packed aid items into bags ready for distributions. Some Rotary members also helped with aid distributions. And that’s just a quick overview! For more detail on our partnership with Rotary in Morocco, read our previous blog.

Those are just two examples of where Rotary have provided support for our disaster responses. Discover more examples, from the Philippines to Ukraine, on our Rotary web page.


4. Rotary members are incredible people of action!

Man walking up to a ShelterBox banner St David's
Rotarian Dave Foster completing his walk of 425 miles to raise funds for ShelterBox

As well as supporting us on the ground after disasters, Rotary members are also some of our most devoted fundraisers!

Rotary Clubs often pull together to help raise funds for ShelterBox, through fundraising events and more. A sign of their dedication can be found with our new Partner Clubs. These are Rotary Clubs that have raised over £2000 for ShelterBox in the course of a year. There are currently over 250 Partner Clubs! And of these, four clubs have reached Platinum status, raising over £10,000 in a year! You can find out more on our Partner Clubs page.

Rotary Clubs may also want to get together to raise the funds that could pay for a bundle of aid items. They can do this by taking part in Stock the Box. This is a chance to create a virtual aid bundle, and to raise funds that can buy practical aid items! Read more on our Stock the Box page.

Three men standing in front of a ShelterBox tent
Rotary International president Gordon McInally (right), with ShelterBox CEO Sanj Srikanthan (centre) and Rotary Borderlands (Passport Group) President Doug Forsyth (left). The slept out in a ShelterBox tent to raise awareness of our work.

Rotary Club members are also often inspired to fundraise as individuals due to ShelterBox’s partnership with Rotary. One example is Rotary member Dave Foster, who walked across the UK on his ShelterBoots journey of 425 miles. He raised around £8000 for our work. Siblings Murdo and Marven were inspired by a Rotary event to cycle over 27 miles to raise funds for ShelterBox. Together they raised £620. And let’s not forget RI president Gordon McInally, who slept out in a ShelterBox tent with our own CEO Sanj Srikanthan to raise awareness of our work. They really are taking the Rotary idea of ‘people of action’ to heart!


5. The Rotary theme for this year is ‘creating hope in the world’ focusing on peace and mental wellbeing

The Rotary theme for the year is chosen by the president. This year’s theme focuses on rebuilding hope in the world. This is partly through focusing on peace, and partly through supporting people’s wellbeing.

By supplying shelter aid to people left with nothing after disaster or conflict, we help restore hope. This has been shared by some of the people we have supported.

Woman holding a toddler inside a tent in Turkey
Aleu and her daughter Beste in the tent they received after the Türkiye earthquake

For example, Aleu and her family were supported with a tent after the earthquake in Türkiye damaged their home. Of the tent Aleu said, “This tent is not a small [gesture]. For us, it’s a huge support. It makes us feel safe.” Nurgül and her family also received a tent after the Türkiye earthquake. “[The tent] is very beautiful. You put together a roof over our heads; you have provided us with shelter, the most fundamental thing. I thank you for making this our home.

Woman standing in front of Atlas Mountains in Morocco
Aicha received a tent after the earthquake in Morocco

In Morocco, community leader Mohamed spoke about the positive impact of the aid distributed in his village. “Honestly, the ShelterBox tents are good and comfortable, the whole community likes them. The tents are like home for people that have their family and children next to them.” And Aicha, who also lives in Mohamed’s village, expressed her gratitude for the aid supplied. “Thank you for coming here to talk with us and listening to our problems. Thank you for the tents, they are good and warm, and the rest of the items are so good, we like them so much. Thank you for coming from far away to see us and for helping us, thank you so much.”

On World Rotary Day, we thank Rotary members across the world who have helped our work. You have been a key part of the ShelterBox story, and we look forward to keep working with you in the future.

If you’d like to learn more about our work with Rotary in 2023, you can read the Impact Report.