ShelterBox is an international disaster relief charity that provides temporary shelter and life saving supplies to displaced families.[1]

Each ShelterBox typically contains a tent designed to withstand extreme weather conditions, water purification kit, blankets, tools, and other necessities to help a family survive after a disaster[1] The contents of a ShelterBox are tailored to the nature and location of the disaster.[2]

ShelterBox Response Teams distribute boxes on the ground, working closely with local organisations, international aid agencies and Rotary clubs worldwide.[3]

Rotary International

Rotary International renewed their three-year Project Partner agreement with ShelterBox in 2016 which increases their joint capacity to help families around the world displaced by disaster.

The agreement formalizes the sixteen-year bond between the two organizations and cements the place of Rotarians around the world at the heart of ShelterBox activities. ShelterBox was the first officially recognized ‘Project Partner’ of Rotary International and remains the only Project Partner focused on disaster relief.

Rotary clubs across Great Britain and Ireland raise around £1.5 million each year for the charity and some Rotarians are ShelterBox Response Team members who go out to disaster areas and provide hands-on help during times of need. These disasters can be anything from dealing with the aftermath of tsunamis to helping refugees from war-torn countries who have fled conflict.

In 2000, the Rotary club of Helston-Lizard adopted ShelterBox as its millennium project.[4] It has since become one of the world’s leading humanitarian aid charities providing emergency shelter and supplies to over 107,000 families worldwide following disaster.[18]


ShelterBox deployed to Kenya following drought and famine across the Horn of Africa in early 2011.

ShelterBox was founded in 2000 in the town of Helston, Cornwall, UK. That same year the Rotary club of Helston-Lizard adopted it as its millennium project.[4]

The first consignment of 143 boxes was sent to victims of the 2001 Gujarat earthquake. Over the next three years the project matured and by the end of 2004 nearly 2,600 boxes had been dispatched, following 16 major disasters. The company significantly expanded its work in response to the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami.[5]

In 2002, ShelterBox's American affiliate was adopted as a project of the Rotary Club of Lakewood Ranch in Sarasota, Fla. In 2004, ShelterBox USA was officially established as a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.

One of ShelterBox's largest responses was the 7.0 magnitude earthquake in Haiti in 2010. ShelterBox provided shelter for 28,000 families or approximately 25% of all tents delivered in areas surrounding Port-au-Prince.

In 2010, the Australian and Canadian branches of ShelterBox split from the main organization and formed new organizations called Disaster Aid Australia and Disaster Aid Canada, respectively.[6] However, new teams in Australia and Canada were immediately put in place and the charity's work was unaffected by the breakaway groups.[7]

After the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami in Japan, ShelterBox provided assistance to about 1,600 families in the disaster region.[8]

In August 2012, the Board of Directors of ShelterBox removed founder Tom Henderson as CEO, stating it was a unanimous decision.[9] In February 2013, Alison Wallace was appointed CEO of ShelterBox after her position as director of international fundraising at Amnesty International.[10]

In August 2014 ShelterBox founder and former CEO Tom Henderson was charged with conspiracy to commit fraud. In the subsequent Old Bailey court case it was alleged that he gave supply contracts to his son.[11][12] He was cleared of conspiracy to commit fraud: not guilty verdicts were accepted and the Crown Prosecution Service said it would not request a retrial following a 44-day trial, which ended with the jury failing to reach a verdict after more than 30 hours of deliberation.[13]

Responding to disasters

Mike Perham talks about ShelterBox in a UK Primary School as part of Big ShelterBox Week 2012

ShelterBox has tracking systems to monitor weather systems around the globe and anticipate the likely scale of hurricanes and cyclones. In addition, an earthquakealert system gives immediate notice of any seismic activity that could result in a humanitarian disaster. ShelterBox works with international aid agencies and Rotary clubs worldwide who also relay information when they become aware of an urgent need for shelter.

ShelterBox aims to get the first shipment of boxes dispatched to a disaster area within 2–3 days where a ShelterBox Response Team (SRT) meets it. ShelterBox tries to get to the disaster as quickly as possible and aims to be one of the first organizations on the ground.[14]


ShelterBox relies on donations: About half of the funds come direct from the UK public, the rest is raised by international affiliates.[14]

ShelterBox has also recently joined a network of experts who can be called on by the UK Government in times of international crisis, such as famine, floods and earthquakes. The new facility allows organisations with experience in disaster response to access funding within hours, thereby reaching affected people faster and saving more lives. It will mean the best organisations from across the UK can be mobilised in the critical first 72 hours following a disaster.[15]

Public donations continue to be of vital importance to ShelterBox as the new Rapid Response Fund will only be activated in the event of a large-scale crisis.[16]


Her Royal Highness first met workers for the charity during a visit to the earthquake-hit villages of Pakistan in November 2006, and was so impressed by the charity’s innovative disaster relief work that she has supported it ever since.[17]

In August 2007, HRH The Duchess of Cornwall became the ShelterBox's President and Royal Patron, following her visit to the charity that summer.