Posted by Kerri Murray - Rotary Club of Montecito, California

Dear RI District 6250,

I am reaching out to let you know I'm thinking of the well-being of you and your family. I am hopeful you are staying safe and healthy during this difficult time.

As coronavirus spreads around the globe, governments have imposed quarantines of unprecedented scale to flatten the curve. These include sealing borders and travel restrictions, recommendations on handwashing, practicing social-distancing, and orders to remain at home. But what if you don’t have a home, access to clean water, or a local support network to begin with?

Coronavirus has the potential to ravage the world’s most vulnerable: the tens of millions of refugees and internally displaced people. The virus knows no boundaries and is reaching the furthest parts of our world.

Now, more than ever, the work at ShelterBox is critically important. Millions of displaced families are living in overcrowded settlements where sanitation is poor, social distancing is impossible, and access to basic services is severely limited. Our work to provide families with individual tents, where refugees can self-isolate, as well as our distributions of essential supplies: including cooking equipment, sleeping mats, and water purification, better enable families to have an environment to stay healthier and may reduce the risk of infection during an outbreak.

Prior to the coronavirus global quarantines, ShelterBox was already scaling our emergency shelter projects in response to the widespread displacement in Idlib, Syria where one million people have been displaced in the northwest since December 2019. Even though Syria has reported nine cases of coronavirus infection at the time of this writing, it is likely the outbreak will come to Idlib, and maybe already has. If and when the outbreak accelerates, it will become catastrophic. As health organizations prepare for the worst, ShelterBox’s humanitarian distributions are ongoing in Syria and we remain committed to this lifesaving work.

Our concern is that refugee camps could be an incubator for coronavirus infections, spreading quickly from family to family, camp to camp, with horrific consequences. ShelterBox is working to find new ways to tackle the challenges and adapt to changing circumstances.

We are implementing safety and mitigation procedures with our distribution partners including: increasing security during distributions, conducting smaller daily distributions, and implementing the use of personal protective equipment (masks, gloves, and sanitizer). ShelterBox remains committed to doing all we can to provide emergency shelter to displaced families and to mitigate the risks in reaching these beneficiaries, ensuring we do no harm.

The coronavirus pandemic is a constant reminder of the fundamental importance of home to our health and wellbeing. With much of the world overwhelmed by the infection rate and lethality of coronavirus, help to the most vulnerable is of paramount concern for all of us at ShelterBox.

To find out more or to donate to ShelterBox, please visit

We will continue to keep you posted on our work. We are also here to support you. As many Rotary club events and meetings are moving online, we want to provide opportunities for you to remain connected as a club, as a community and globally as people of action. Please visit the ShelterBox Rotary Action Toolkit online for ideas and resources for your club.

Yours In Rotary Service,

Kerri Murray 
President, ShelterBox USA 

Rotary Club of Montecito