Clubs provide ShelterBoxes for North Korean flood victims
ShelterBoxes are delivered to flood victims in North Korea after heavy rains left around 300,000 homeless.Photo courtesy of Mark Pearson/ShelterBox
When floods struck parts of North Korea earlier this year, Rotarians from England joined forces with a Canadian charity to provide humanitarian relief through ShelterBox, a disaster relief program sponsored by Rotarians in six countries.
North Korea opened its doors for help in August after nine provinces in the country were hit by heavy rains that left around 300,000 homeless.
Working with First Steps, a Christian charity with extensive experience in humanitarian assistance projects in North Korea, volunteers delivered 200 ShelterBoxes for homeless families. Each box provides a tent and other survival essentials to help a family of 10 survive for at least six months.
ShelterBox photographer Mark Pearson accompanied the small team to Jigokri, a small village in Kangwon Province, about 25 miles from the border that divides North and South Korea.
“We delivered the first 35 boxes to Jigokri where work was already underway to rebuild houses lost in the floods, but a number of families were still without a home,” said Pearson. “The floods had also washed away the village’s clinic and primary school. Within minutes of the tents going up, the local doctor set up in one and started doing acupuncture on a man who had a stomach problem. Another tent was turned into a classroom for the village children.”
The seeds of the project were planted at the 2007 RI Convention in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA, where ShelterBox founder Tom Henderson, a member of the Rotary Club of Helston-Lizard, England, met Susan Ritchie, the founder of First Steps, who was attending the convention as an observer.
“She instantly realized how useful our ShelterBoxes could be and told the North Korean authorities about us,” says Henderson.
“Our concern is the needs of people who have lost their homes as the result of a disaster. Politics doesn’t matter when your house has been washed away. We hope to be able to help further in North Korea in the future,” says Henderson.
Rotary clubs in the United States also are responding to the disaster recovery efforts. Several Rotary clubs in Illinois, in cooperation with the Rotary Club of Shanghai, China, are raising $10,000 to send medical supplies to North Korea, calling the fundraiser Operation Flood Relief Now.