Over the last 4 months and 1800 miles, lots of people have asked us if we're doing the hike for charity. So we've explained to them about Shelterbox, and the amazing work that they do in providing emergency shelter for people caught up in natural disasters and humanitarian crises.
And then we realised that Shelterbox's headquarters were just 12 miles from Penzance, where we've been resting since finishing our hike at Land's End. So we thought it would be a good idea to call in and find out what exactly goes into a Shelterbox, and how the boxes get from the far end of Cornwall to places such as Syria, Iraq, the Philippines and Paraguay, often within 2 to 3 days of a disaster.
Neil taking a look inside a dome tent. These are sturdy double skin tents, which can be customised for cold climates by adding an insulating layer between the two layers.
Our Shelterbox host, Pam, showing us the gravity-feed water filtration system which provides clean drinking water in the immediate aftermath of a crisis, until other aid agencies can get in and provide longer term solutions.
Neil and inflatable solar-powered light!
Sleeping blanket - sleeping bags proved unpopular with clients, perhaps because of their resemblance to body bags! These blankets are fleece on one side, Pertex on the other for a bit of moisture and wind protection: they can be used for an emergency bivvy (refugees from war zones are often still not safe once they leave their homes, and may have to keep moving), and they also make cosy shawls.
Cooking set - light but robust stainless steel equipment for cooking and eating. The solid fuel stove can burn anything from wood to cow dung, but is only included in boxes supplied to countries where there is no tradition of cooking on open fires. Obviously, when people are made homeless it is vitally important to get these supplies to them as soon as possible. Shelterbox has ready-packed boxes pre-positioned in warehouses around the world to shorten lead times, and hundreds of volunteer Response Team members to call on, who can travel to recipient countries to arrange freight and distribution. They also help to ensure that the most vulnerable people are given priority in the distribution of equipment.
So all in all, it was a very interesting visit. Over a million people have received aid from Shelterbox since it was set up in 2000 - amazing given the size of their warehouse! Non-religious and non-political, it simply provides the basic tools for starting to rebuild a life, for people who have lost everything.
Many thanks to Pam for showing us round, and Rowan for arranging the visit.