Nelson Leader : February 5th 2015
4 THE NELSON LEADER, FEBRUARY 5, 2015 NEWS Training didn’t take in real devastation of Malaysian floods By SALLY KIDSON H elping provide shelter to victims of devastating flooding in Malaysia was both challenging and rewarding for Nelson man Jimmy Griffiths. Jimmy has just returned from a month deployment to Malaysia with Shelterbox. It was his first work in a disaster zone for the international organisation, which provides emergency shelter and vital supplies to international communities overwhelmed by disaster and humanitarian crisis. Malaysia suffered its worst flooding in 50 years from December 15 to January 3. Wikipedia says more than 200,000 people were affected and 21 people were killed. The flooding ripped houses from their foundations and left locals facing a mammoth cleanup. Witnessing the destruction was initially overwhelming, Jimmy says. ‘‘I remember being driven around looking at the devastation, and thinking: ‘Man, where do you start? How do you start putting the pieces together’.’’ Their job was to ensure the shelter went to those who needed it, and they helped train locals and other volunteers to put up the tents. The muck, flood debris and wet ground meant finding a suitable ➤SHELTERBOX ShelterBox is an international disaster relief charity, supported by Rotary, that delivers emergency shelter to people affected by disasters. A ShelterBox contains a range of equipment including a tent for an extended family, blankets, tools, mosquito nets, solar lamps, cooking utensils and even a children’s activity pack. Since 2000 Shelterbox has distributed over 130,000 boxes. Shelterboxes are stored in warehouses all over the world. The cost of each box is $1500. See shelterbox.org.nz or theshortbreadtrust.com for more information. place to erect the tents was a challenge. Jimmy worked with other Shelterbox volunteers to put up tents for families left homeless. Shelterbox also provides some of the basics necessities such as cooking equipment, water purification methods and mosquito nets. Jimmy’s team worked in the Kelantan province north east of Kuala Lumpa. Jimmy is one of only 190 to 220 Shelterbox volunteers trained and available to work in disaster zones. Good deed: NelsonmanJimmy Griffith working for Shelterbox in Malaysia following the severe flooding in December and January. He went through Shelterbox’s difficult selection process to volunteer last year. He finished his training in October, and had just finished the required vaccine programme when he was asked to travel to Malaysia. ‘‘I got the call on January 3 and had signed up for deployment on December 26. I was out mountain biking enjoying the Nelson summer when I got the call.’’ Jimmy said despite the training Flattened: A family living in Malaysia struggle to cope after the country suffered its worst flooding in 50 years. being fresh in his mind the reality of doing the job on the ground was naturally different. ‘‘Theory doesn’t match the practical. There was a lot of things going through my mind including is there going to be fresh water when I get there, what’s the security risk . . .’’ Some of the challenges included the extreme heat and humidity, language differences, working with local customs and politics and sometimes having to eat sketchy food. To cope with the enormity of the situation and its sadness at facing the situation he found people in, he became ‘‘task focussed’’. ‘‘I looked at it that each tent I didn’t put up that day was a family not sleeping in a tent. Giving them a tent gave them privacy, dignity and a chance to start rebuilding their lives,’’ he said. ‘‘ Jimmy cycled around the South Island last year to raise money and awareness of Shelterbox and his own charity The Shortbread Trust, which also aims to provide the basic essentials of life such as shelter and clean water in developing countries. Jimmy said going to Malaysia and witnessing the work Shelterbox did on the ground had shown him he was right to support the agency. ‘‘It’s just fantastic. Now I realise my time wasn’t wasted.’’ He hopes to enjoy the rest of summer in Nelson, and won’t be taking it for granted. ‘‘One minute you are standing there in poverty, the next minute you are back in Nelson enjoying the simple things in life. Life can change within a heartbeat.’’ He is also keen to keep fundraising and raising awareness of Shelterbox and the Shortbread Trust. He said it was important that money was raised for Shelterbox before disaster struck as the tents were needed to be dispatched urgently. ‘‘That’s why we are so grateful for everybody who donates and helps us so we are prepared for the next disaster.’’ Proud to support Konica Minolta BikeFest Nelson. And we’re giving away two $500 prizes to celebrate. We’re different to other banks. Being 100% New Zealand owned and independent means we love having the freedom to put our communities first and support local events – like the Konica Minolta BikeFest Nelson. And to celebrate, we’ll be giving away two $500 Torpedo7 gift cards* at the Carnivelo event in Trafalgar Park, on Friday 13 February. Find us in the TSB Bank marquee for your chance to enter the draw. We hope you enjoy this year’s Konica Minolta BikeFest Nelson. It’s just another way we can say ‘thanks’, and put you first. Visit www.bikefestnelson.co.nz for event information. *See entry form for full prize draw details. 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January 29th 2015
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