ShelterBox and Rotary Wage Peace 

Rotarians are much more favorably disposed toward action than they are toward words.” – Paul Harris

By Rotarian Bill Woodard and Sarah Robinson of ShelterBox

Yazida holds her two year old daughter at Cox’s Bazar, the world’s largest refugee settlement.

Building Peace One Family At A Time

It was a summer day in 2017 when Yazida’s life changed forever.

“The military came in and started firing at us. They killed the men and raped many women, so we fled from our country. They stole all of our possessions, our money, our ornaments, even our clothes.”

Yazida’s husband was brutally murdered during the attacks on her village.

Suddenly, she went from being a wife and mother of a two-year-old girl, to a widow at the age of 18.

To save her life and that of her young daughter, Yazida had to flee. She walked for two days from Myanmar to Bangladesh, struggling to carry her daughter the entire way. “It was really difficult,” she remembers, “as no one would help me.”

As a Rohingya Muslim, Yazida was part of a group targeted for their faith. The Rohingya have suffered decades of violence and persecution in Myanmar. Every minute, more families, just like Yazida’s, lose everything in the chaos of conflict. Their homes, their livelihoods, and even family members are brutally snatched away.

Reducing Vulnerabilities

Humanitarian emergencies exacerbate vulnerabilities. Of those currently displaced, 75% are women and children.  As Rotarians around the world work together to build peace, ShelterBox is focusing on serving the most vulnerable. World peace means more than ending wars: it also means safety for everyone, including society’s most vulnerable members.

Why Shelter

When missiles and mortars leave cities in ruins, when troops storm villages, when families fear for their lives, ShelterBox believes that shelter can cut through the chaos.

Shelter is a basic human need. It is a determinant for survival in most disasters:  essential for personal safety, security and protection from extreme weathers. It promotes resistance to ill health and disease. More than just walls and roofs, shelter is vital for the maintenance of human dignity and the sustenance of family and community life. Shelter reduces vulnerability, builds community resilience and enables affected populations to recover. It is the foundation for life, for family, for community.

A Global Impact

ShelterBox’s work keeps families and communities together to mitigate the consequences and escalation of violence. Critical to peacebuilding is the ability to operate in many of the world’s most extreme conflict zones.  ShelterBox combines its experience in providing emergency shelter, with critical partnerships to reach areas of the world traditionally cut off from humanitarian assistance.  In addition to their partnership with Rotary, ShelterBox collaborates with many global humanitarian aid agencies, including UNHCR, International Federation of the Red Cross, Amnesty International, Habitat for Humanity, UNICEF, and Médecins Sans Frontières.

These networks, rooted in communities, help ShelterBox go the last mile to deliver a diverse range of emergency shelter aid to the most remote and vulnerable people.

A Foundation for Recovery

What ShelterBox provides is so much more than just material aid – it provides the foundations for recovery. The need for this targeted humanitarian assistance to often forgotten corners of the world, is needed now more than ever. Over the last several years, ShelterBox has provided aid to families caught in some of the world’s most extreme conflict zones. From the conflicts in Syria and Iraq, to the Boko Haram insurgency in the Lake Chad Basin of Africa, to some of the world’s largest refugee camps like Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh, ShelterBox is bringing the stability needed for peace.

For Yazida, this stability came from having a place to rest and recover.  Eventually she made it to the border and into the Kutupalong camp, as did her parents and two brothers. “When we arrived, I was happy to be alive and happy for us to have something to eat,” she shared.

Her journey however, is not over. Although she escaped, Yazida, said she now feels like a burden, as she is unable to make any money. Living in the camp, she is only doors away from her father, but he has said he is obliged to keep her only because she now has no husband nor son who can help provide for the family. When asked if she could work in the camp she said, “there is nowhere for any woman to work and earn money in this camp.”

The main thing that Yazida expressed was that she was just happy to be alive, but also felt very helpless. She did not think too much about the future, “I am struggling with my current position, now that I have lost my husband I feel insecurity for the future.”

As ShelterBox and Rotary continue to wage peace, we must also look for ways to create opportunities for the most vulnerable, supporting families as they self-recover. Through each of our unique efforts, ShelterBox and Rotary work in tandem to create a prosperous, healthy, fair and tolerant society.

In 2018, with the support of Rotarians and partner agencies, ShelterBox was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, in recognition of their humanitarian efforts to shelter families in areas of extreme conflict around the globe. ShelterBox USA has earned a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator and achieved Platinum level from GuideStar for demonstrating strong financial health and commitment to accountability and transparency.

ShelterBox is Rotary International’s project partner in disaster relief. To learn more, visit:

ShelterBox and Rotary Wage Peace, Together