Disaster relief service highlighted at Open Air Fair
By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Killingly - posted Tue., Apr. 26, 2011
Quinebaug Valley Community College held its fifth annual Open Air Fair on April 20 and 21. This year’s fair was a celebration of Earth Day and sustainability. Seventeen local vendors and seven student organizations had booths spread out in the hallways and spilling outdoors. Organic produce was available from 18th Century Purity Farm. Handcrafted baskets, jewelry and accessories were on sale. Chainsaw art and artwork by QVCC students were for sale. Herbal essences, health and wellness products, and even chair massages were available. A variety of organizations raised money for Covenant Soup Kitchen, the QVCC Foundation, Heifer International, and Relay for Life.
Special focus this year was given to ShelterBox, an international aid organization that provides disaster relief assistance. Packed inside a large green plastic box is a tent large enough for a family of 10, along with life-saving tools, including mosquito netting, water purification supplies and a stove. A shelter was set up in the cafeteria to show fair-goers what the international aid organization offers. The donations raised were earmarked for victims of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.
Assistant Professor Jayne Battye was instrumental in bringing ShelterBox to QVCC. She knew that she wanted to use the organization as a way to connect her students to the world in a way a class couldn't. Battye teaches an African politics course. As a lesson about refugees, her students had to research the status of refugees in different parts of the world. They made cardboard cutouts of refugees and printed individual stories on each one. On April 20, 16 students slept outside in cardboard boxes to help bring the lessons to life. Most of the students were from Battye's class. The students brought only what they could carry on their backs. They relied on the community to bring them food. They had few blankets and slept on the ground. By the morning, the cardboard boxes had absorbed enough moisture to make them damp and cold.
“When I teach, I like to connect with what’s going on now,” Battye said. “We know there is poverty here,” said Battye. “But we also need to understand that we need to be connected to the rest of the world, because what happens elsewhere does impact us here.”
Second-year student T.J. LaFollette was one of the 16 who spent the night outside. “It was illuminating,” he said. “I couldn’t imagine being stripped of my humanity. I couldn’t wait to warm up. I couldn’t imagine being without hope.”
“It just came together and culminated in this overnight fundraiser,” said Battye. “They did wonderful.”
The students raised $1,315. An additional $1,000 was raised from a silent art auction held the previous week, according to Student Activities Coordinator Susan Harrod. Students, faculty and staff donated art to the auction. The combined total was enough to purchase two ShelterBoxes.
Rotarian Peter Krock from Hartford set the shelter up for demonstration purposes. The large gray tent had privacy panels, an inner and outer shell, and four collapsible poles that kept the tent up. Work is underway to make a blanket that will fit between the tent shells for cold temperature locations.
Fellow Rotarian and Englishman Tom Hendersen created the shelter and organization 10 years ago. Inspired by what he saw as callous humanitarian aid, he wanted to create something that could be delivered to disaster areas quickly and provide dignified aid to people.
In January 2001, 143 boxes were shipped to Indiafor earthquake victims. By the end of 2004, almost 2,600 boxes had been dispatched to 16 major disaster sites worldwide. In 2005 alone, the organization sent out more than 22,000 boxes to the victims of the tsunami that hit Indonesia on Dec. 24, 2004.
Hendersen's organization in Cornwall, UK, has a global reach, but is community-based. When disasters strike, villagers and outsiders come together to ready ShelterBoxes for shipment as quickly as they can. “They think that they have to get those boxes out within 72 hours or people are going to start dying,” Krock said. Rotarians worldwide help by giving presentations about the shelters in order to raise awareness of and funds for the organization.
When Krock and his wife got involved with the organization, they thought they were going to be working for international relief efforts. Then hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. ShelterBox shipped 1,400 boxes to the United States for disaster relief.
As of April 21, ShelterBox had shipped 2,400 boxes to Japan, according to Krock. With proceeds from QVCC's Open Air Fair, two more would be going to Japan.
“We're doing something that is significant,” Krock said.