St Martin’s Man Recounts Philippines Disaster Work For Shelterbox

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A St Martin’s man who spent two weeks in the Philippines helping Shelterbox deliver aid to remote communities has described his experience there as “very positive.”

Ben Julian, the joint owner of Churchtown Farm, says it was “surreal” to be dropped into a disaster zone, having to hit the ground running then return back to everyday life on St Martin’s at the end of it.

Typhoon Haiyan tore a 100-mile wide path of destruction through the Philippines last November, and Shelterbox was one of the first charities on the scene.

Ben’s team was actually one of the last in the region, and they were trying to reach remote mountainous areas where people hadn’t already received aid.

He says farmers in these areas literally had their houses blown off the mountains, which meant they had to leave their farms to find safety in the valleys.

Ben says the deployment was an unusual one, because they weren’t handing out traditional green shelterboxes.

They focussed on tents and solar lights, which allowed the farmers to return to their land and start earning money again.

Ben says the worst of the disaster had passed and he was lucky not to have to encounter any very harrowing scenes.

But he says it was still upsetting to see people’s lives destroyed and was amazed by how positive and helpful they were and how much they appreciated the help.

This was Ben’s first international deployment and he says that while the Shelterbox training is very thorough, it can’t prepare you for everything you’re going to encounter.

He says you have to “make it up as you go along” and quickly get set up as a team.

Ben says the local group of volunteers, many of them student nurses, were incredible and he intends to keep in touch with the friends he made there.

You can find out more about the charity by visiting their website at shelterbox.org.