When Mike Mira headed to the Noon Rotary Club Zephyrhills meeting nearly six years ago, he didn’t know it was going to change his life.
But, when the Zephyrhills man heard the presentation from ShelterBoxUSA representatives, he knew he wanted to get involved.
The presentation came about 18 months after the earthquake in Haiti, Mira said.
ShelterBox, which is an international organization, responds to disasters around the world. Trained responders will do an assessment to see what the need is, Mira said.
“If there’s a need, they’ll call for shelter boxes to come in,” he said.
The aid the organization sends is adaptable, based on what’s needed.
Sometimes it sends sturdy green shelter boxes, which hold practical tools and utensils, to support everyday life.
Contents of the box can vary, based on the disaster that occurred and the climate where it happened.
In general, though, each box contains a family-sized tent, solar lights, water storage and purification equipment, thermal blankets and cooking utensils.
In other cases, it sends shelter kits. These include toolkits, ropes, fasteners and heavy-duty tarps that can be used to build a shelter, repair damaged buildings and begin to rebuild a home.
Again, the kits are customized to suit the needs of the community. Sometimes they include corrugated iron to help make resilient roofing, or even room dividers and mattresses to make warehouses habitable.
In some situations, the kits might also include solar lights, mattresses and water containers.
Sometimes, when families can’t start rebuilding their homes immediately, the organization supplies large, sturdy tents that can withstand extreme weather conditions and temperatures.
When a disaster strikes, ShelterBox Response Teams travel to the area to determine what, if any kind of response is needed, Mira said.
They go by foot, boat, helicopter or even tuk-tuk to get there, according to the organization’s website.
ShelterBox also makes sure the items end up in the right hands, Mira said.
“If they don’t come in through customs into our hands, we don’t bring them in. We want to make sure they actually go to the people who actually need them.
“That was the biggest selling point for me to get involved in the organization,” said Mira, who recently was inducted into the organization’s Hall of Fame.
ShelterBox’s history dates back to 2000, Mira said, noting it was started by a Rotary Club.
“They wanted to help people who had lost everything,” he said.
“They came up with a kit. It had a tent. Basically, a glorified camping kit,” Mira said.
Over time, the organization grew into its own separate international entity, which is based in the United Kingdom.
There are 14 affiliates around the world, Mira said.
“ShelterBoxUSA is right here in Lakewood Ranch, near Sarasota,” said Mira, who is a lead ambassador for the organization, and oversees the ambassadors in Florida and Georgia. He personally covers Pinellas, Pasco, Hernando and Citrus counties.
Mira has done his part to spread the word, giving more than 100 presentations and raising more than $100,000. For his efforts, he recently became the 23rd person inducted into the organization’s Hall of Fame.
The organization also has a location in Santa Barbara, California.
While it responds to disasters in far-off parts of the world, it also responds in the United States, he said.
“After Hurricane Katrina, when federal, state and local government were all pointing the finger at each other, and ‘Who’s problem is this?’ ShelterBox was on the ground,” he said, helping families.
“Superstorm Sandy, we responded. There wasn’t a need for the shelter. But, we left tons of mittens and scarves and hats.
“We tailor the kits to where they are going,” Mira said.
“After the Japanese tsunami, we put a bunch of winter gloves and hats, and things like that, scarves. If it is going somewhere in Africa, we’ll put extra mosquito netting.”
It costs $1,000 for each shelter box, he said. In 2017, the organization helped 160,000 people, he added.
The organization focuses solely on helping families who have lost their shelter to operate from day to day.
“When the Haiti earthquake hit, the responder from ShelterBox called headquarters and said ‘Send everything we have.’
‘Everything in Cornwall?
‘No, everything we have around the world. We need it all.’
“We sent 28,417 shelter boxes, and an additional 7,000 just tents,” he said.
ShelterBox does not provide food.
“We work with other aid agencies. We provide the shelter. There are other agencies that provide the food, the medicine and stuff like that,” Mira said.
ShelterBox is currently responding in the Caribbean following Hurricanes Irma and Maria, Bangladesh following flooding in the north and the Rohingya refugee crisis in the south, and Somaliland where people are displaced by drought. The organization is also providing aid to people displaced by conflict situations in Syria, Iraq, Cameroon, Chad and Niger.
Mira is proud of the organization’s record.
“We’re Charity Navigator 4-star rated, the highest rating you can get from Charity Navigator.
Anyone who would like to help can go to ShelterBoxUSA.com to donate.
“If there are any organizations who want a presentation, they can contact me,” Mira said. He can be reached at (813) 469-0243.
Published January 10, 2018