As if working on Churchtown Farm, with the rest of the Julian family, is not enough to keep him busy, our very own Ben is now a fully fledged Shelter Box volunteer, ready and waiting for his first call to aid the successful charity in their work abroad. Shelter Box have been running since April 2000, when Tom Henderson, a Rotarian and former Royal Navy search and rescue diver, after he saw first-hand the lack of shelter provided for those affected by natural disasters around the world.
Ben undertook 9 days of rigorous training and assessment on a ‘desolate’ air field just outside of Helston in Cornwall. Shelter Box obviously need to know that whoever joins them in the field will be ready to deal with the harsh reality of the aftermath of such devastating events as earthquakes, tsunamis, floods and conflicts. To that end, the workload thrown at the trainee volunteers during the 9 days is intense, with little sleep and the subsequent psychological strain that goes along with it. Before reaching this 9 day training course, the selection process is necessarily thorough, including a face-to-face interview and a 3 day selection weekend. Only 10% of applicants make it to the 9 day course, a clear indication that volunteering for this particular charity isn’t for everyone.
‘Shelter Box … is about providing shelter, warmth and dignity to families who’ve lost everything in a disaster’
As you might have already worked out, Zoe and family have been behind Ben and Shelter Box the whole way, as have the team at Churchtown Farm. Scillyflowers is an award winning flower farm, having launched 20 years ago, and Ben is a key figure in the business. This means that he can only register himself as being provisionally available to pack up and travel to a disaster zone. Shelter Box offer volunteers the chance to register as either completely or provisionally available, allowing Ben to continue his vital day-to-day running of the business, whilst making himself available for deployment with a bit of notice. Teams of 2 to 4 people are sent into the field for 2 weeks at a time, so flexibility is vital. Volunteers are both unpaid and must be able to cope with the pressures of the disaster, so periods beyond 2 weeks are unrealistic.
You might be wondering what the motivation for Ben’s big adventure with Shelter Box may have been? In Ben’s words, Shelter Box are ‘… about providing shelter, warmth and dignity to families who’ve lost everything in a disaster’, which seems beyond a good enough reason. For over 3 years Scillyflowers have supported the charity, having gelled with the Shelter Box ethos – their drive, focus and energy to provide practical, immediate support to those hit by disasters that are out of their control. Following a visit from a Shelter Box representative to St. Martin’s, Ben was offered a chance to apply as a volunteer and jumped at the chance. Now he just needs a few vaccination jabs and he is ready to go. He may be asked to drop those Scented Pinks or Narcissi at a moment’s notice. We’re all very proud of Ben here on the island – Shelter Box is an incredibly worthy cause.