Press releases

Pushing the boat out for disaster relief  

A man from Norfolk is embarking on a three-day sailing challenge along the River Thames for ShelterBox.

9 July 2024

A man wearing a green ShelterBox t shirt stands inside a boat behind green sails.

Press release – 9 July

A man from Norfolk is embarking on a three-day sailing challenge along the River Thames to support people around the world left without shelter after disaster.  

Paul Weatherill, 69, will be launching his homemade dinghy, ‘ShelterBoat’, on the Thames for a sponsored sail to raise funds for the international disaster relief charity, ShelterBox.  

The charity specialises in emergency shelter, supporting people around the world who have lost their homes after disaster or conflict. It has a team on its way to the Caribbean after island nations were left devastated following Hurricane Beryl and is ready to respond if needed. 

The Watton and District Rotary Club member, Paul, says: “I’ve been a tent and marquee maker since leaving school at 15, so ShelterBox has always held a special interest to me. I’m also an adventurer at heart and love sailing.  

“During lockdown a few years ago, I needed a project so with the help of my engineer friend, we built a dinghy out of one of the charity’s old iconic green boxes, adding sails and an electric outboard to make it fit for a solo mission. 

“It’s great to do something so enjoyable whilst doing my bit for such an important cause.” 

ShelterBox supports people who have been displaced by providing shelter and other items such as water filters, solar lights, and mosquito nets. It works with communities and local partners to understand what communities need following a disaster and tailors its aid to each response.

The charity was founded in 2000 by a Rotary Club in Helston, and the two organisations have been working closely ever since. ShelterBox has supported nearly three million people in around 100 countries. 

This will be the third solo voyage Paul has taken on ShelterBoat having sailed up the Norfolk Broads to Norwich in 2021, and from Stratford-upon-Avon to Tewksbury in 2023, raising a total of £5,500.  

Paul continues: “This time the Thames was calling. I’ll be setting sail from the Traditional Boat Festival in Henley on Thames on Friday 19 July and the plan is to stop at the rowing clubs in Marlow and Eaton, before reaching Shepperton Lock on day three.

“With newly upgraded sails I’m looking forward to seeing how fast she goes, and I’m thrilled to be embarking on another voyage for ShelterBox.” 

Support for Paul continues to flood in with family, friends and members of Watton and District Rotary Club donating to his JustGiving page. Fellow ShelterBox supporter, and friend Dave Foster is amongst those who have donated, commenting “Let’s get this boat on the river and the show on the road, Captain!”.  

Rotary Engagement Officer at ShelterBox, Fiona Turner, says: “It’s great to hear that Paul will be back on the water in an upgraded ShelterBoat. It’s such a fun and creative fundraiser and Paul’s passion shines through.  

“We rely solely on public donations and are extremely grateful to people like Paul who give up their free time to raise funds and awareness of the issues people are facing around the world. 

“As well as deploying to the Caribbean, we have ShelterBox aid being distributed in Gaza where 1.7 million people have been affected by conflict.”  

The charity is working with local partners to support thousands of people with tents and other essential items such as kitchen sets, blankets and water carriers.  

ShelterBox is also responding in Bangladesh where it’s working with local organisation, Uttaran, to support people who have had their homes washed away by flooding following Cyclone Remal. ShelterBox is supporting people to build emergency shelters by distributing corrugated iron sheeting, timber, bamboo, and other essential items. 

To find out more about ShelterBox and where the charity is working, visit  


For more information contact the press office at ShelterBox via [email protected].    

Notes to Editors     

  • Interviews available with Paul Weatherill and Fiona Turner at ShelterBox.
  • Images and captions included.