MY day off last week was spent watching coverage of the Japanese earthquake.

As the horror began to unfold news teams kept returning time and time again to a UK-based organisation called ShelterBox, which provides emergency shelter and equipment to disaster areas.

ShelterBox was founded by Tom Henderson, a Rotarian and former Royal Navy search and rescue diver.

He saw that the aid response to most disasters was in the form of food and medicine to help people survive the immediate aftermath.

Little or no assistance was given in terms of proper shelter to help them through the first few days, weeks and months as they tried to rebuild their lives.

Tom launched ShelterBox in1999 to fill that void and started researching the idea, sourcing equipment and twisting arms to get the project off the ground. His persistence paid off in April 2000 when ShelterBox was adopted by the Rotary Club of Helston-Lizard in Cornwall as its millennium project. Little did they know that it would become the largest Rotary club project in the world.

Since then thousands of ShelterBoxes, containing the essentials a family needs to survive in the immediate aftermath of a disaster, have been dispatched all over the world. Each large, green box is tailored to a disaster but typically contains a tent for an extended family, blankets, water storage and purification equipment, cooking utensils, a stove, a basic tool kit, a children’s activity pack and other vital items.

On the day of the earthquake Tom and his volunteers were packing boxes, yet again. They have supported survivors of every type of natural and conflict disaster, from the Indian Ocean Tsunami in 2004 to the Haitian and New Zealand earthquakes.

ShelterBoxes cost £590 each and are funded through public donation. Each box is numbered so that donors can track their box across the world.

If you’re struggling to think of the perfect Christmas box for someone this year then donating a ShelterBox for someone in need could be the perfect solution.

Watching Tom at work I couldn’t help but be moved by the way his single-minded, practical, approach to global tragedy has helped so many.

If you’d like to know more about ShelterBox and how to contribute check out