Thousands assisted by ShelterBox Morocco deployment

On September 8, 2023, a powerful 6.8-magnitude earthquake struck Morocco, resulting in thousands of deaths and injuries, and leaving tens of thousands homeless. ShelterBox Australia was on the ground to assist those most in need.

Alstonville Rotarian and ShelterBox Australia CEO Mike Greenslade recently returned from Morocco, where he was part of a ShelterBox Response Team providing emergency shelter to families left homeless by a 6.8-magnitude earthquake that struck the Atlas Mountains south of Marrakesh on September 8, 2023. Mike deployed with fellow Australian Laura Coleman.

“Laura and I were part of an international team tasked with providing tents, thermal blankets, kitchen sets and solar lights to hundreds of families affected by the earthquake,” Mike said. “My day job as CEO of ShelterBox Australia is mainly fundraising so it was gratifying to get out in the field again after five years without deploying.

“The response in Morocco was a huge team effort; we worked with Grand Atlas, a local NGO, Rotary and a wonderful group of local volunteers. Logistics were a challenge, given the remoteness of many of the affected communities and the mountainous terrain. Aid was transported in lorries, small trucks, and Utes, with the last miles often covered by loading up mules and donkeys.

“We consulted closely with affected communities, holding focus group discussions before distributions and gave ownership to them via training and involvement in decision making.

“But it was the local volunteers that impressed me the most. They were a fantastic group of young people who had themselves been affected by the earthquake, many of them living in ShelterBox tents. They would turn up in good humour every day and work hard with little need for direction.”

And Mike says the team certainly didn’t go hungry!

PICTURE: In all, ShelterBox assisted over 1,200 families, helping them prepare for a long cold winter before the process of rebuilding can begin.

“The hospitality shown in these mountain villages was next level; everywhere we went we were given sweet mint tea, accompanied by freshly made bread, local honey, butter, olive oil and nuts. If it was anywhere near lunchtime, then a roast lemon chicken or a tagine would be brought out for us.
“By the end of the deployment, it felt like we were family.”

For Laura, who was a Rotary Exchange student to Zimbabwe in 1997, her Morocco deployment was the latest in a long list of deployments as a ShelterBox Response Team (SRT) volunteer, including Guatemala in response to a volcano, Ethiopia due to conflict and Paraguay due to flooding.

“Rotary has played an integral part in every one of the responses I have been involved in,” said Laura. “Not only in the fundraising, which is essential for us to be able to do what we do, but also the in-country support of Rotarians, with their local knowledge, contacts and language.

“Although my professional career is in the realm of marketing and project management, in Morocco I was responsible for managing the ‘last mile logistics’, the transportation and distribution mechanics to ensure the aid got from our Marrakesh warehouse to the hands of the people we were supporting, sometimes very high up in the Atlas Mountains along some quite treacherous roads.”

Naturally, Rotary in Morocco played an essential role in getting ShelterBox aid into the country.

“Rotary in Morocco, District 9010, and ShelterBox worked in partnership with Moroccan authorities and other national NGOs to provide shelter, aid, and other essential items to people affected by the earthquake,” said District 9010 Governor Saadia Aglif.

“The earthquake caused many buildings to collapse, and the reconstruction work will take time to complete. Together, we provided shelter to people, giving them a sense of privacy and protection from the cold nights and heat of the day.”

In all, ShelterBox assisted over 1,200 families, helping them prepare for a long cold winter before the process of rebuilding can begin.

“Once again, the Rotary network has provided invaluable introductions and connections to the local community, local authorities, and other local organisations,” said Rotary Partnerships Manager for ShelterBox Alex Youlten.

“A huge thank you from me and no doubt all those I’ve had the privilege to help for the part that Rotary has played in allowing me to do so,” said Laura.

ShelterBox Australia is a registered charity with DGR 1 tax-deductibility, 100 per cent funded by donations. 
For more information, visit www.shelterboxaustralia.org.au

MAIN PICTURE: ShelterBox Australia CEO Mike Greenslade, left, and ShelterBox Response Team volunteer Laura Coleman deployed to Morocco following the 6.8-magnitude earthquake that struck the Atlas Mountains on September 8, 2023.