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Students get inside look at ShelterBox
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Springfield Elementary students raised nearly $4,000 for ShelterBox and helped Ross Spencer build a ShelterBox tent before SES students shuffled through it. - photo by Photo by Calli Arnold

After raising $4,000 each to buy ShelterBoxes after the January earthquake in Haiti, South Effingham High and Springfield Elementary students were able to see where their money went when they helped assemble the 10-man tent in front of their schools last week.

Last month, Effingham County schools raised $25,900 and combined with the Rotary Clubs’ contributions, Effingham County raised almost $29,000 to donate to ShelterBox. This makes up half of the funds collected from the entire Rotary district, stretching from Augusta to Macon to Valdosta to St. Mary’s.

Founded 10 years ago, ShelterBox is an organization that sends survival supplies to disaster areas around the world. Each ShelterBox weighs 130 pounds and is filled with items such as the tent mentioned above, pots, pans, water purification equipment, different tools, school supplies and a small stove that runs on a number of different fuels.

Ross Spencer, a Rotarian and a ShelterBox representative, brought a ShelterBox similar to the ones the Effingham school system helped to purchase. Each tent had three rooms, two doors and six windows, all zipped up with mosquito netting, and students at both schools seemed to enjoy pushing the four rods through the tent, tying support strings to stakes in the ground and being inside their finished product.

“The great thing about this is the kids got the hands on experience,” Spencer said. “This is all part of helping them understand what their money went for.”

At SEHS, six students from the Interact club and the junior class officers constructed the tent with the help of Spencer and South Effingham High Principal Dr. Mark Winters, who is also president of the Effingham Rotary Club. They finished in about 30 minutes and listened as Spencer explained to them the intricacies of ShelterBox.

Ninety-five percent of its funds raised for ShelterBox go directly to the cause. It costs about $1,000 to buy a ShelterBox and the organization sends a certificate to the donor that tells exactly where their box went. Since the start of this year, ShelterBox has responded to six disasters.

“Our people actually set up and show them how it works, how to use it and how to repair the tent,” Spencer said. “We get in to these places before most people do.”

He said ShelterBox had people in Port au Prince, Haiti within 24 hours of the earthquake. More than 10,000 ShelterBoxes were sent to Haiti and many were used as hospital wards.

“I’m really glad we got in there and got involved. It’s good to get in there and make a difference with your hands,” said Katie Babineau, the community service leader for SEHS’s Interact club.

At Springfield Elementary, Beta Club students and grade representatives helped to put the tent together, but most of the children in the school were able to come out, walk through the tent and see the equipment. Amongst an array of “ooh’s,” “ahh’s,” “wow’s” and “cools,” Spencer was able to inspire these students as well.

First-grader Deion Duncan said helping with the tent was fun because “you get to build a home.”

Students who helped from SEHS were: Micah Christensen, Julie Detgen, Brandon Binke, Laura Breteson, Tyler Duke and Katie Babineau. From SES were: Mackenzie Stewart, Jordan Burnsed, Emily Alexander, Ceacie Villarreal, Whitney Ricardo, Mackenzie White, Martha Paramo, Anna Snooks, Simone Jackson, Austin Beard, Amelia Uzupan, Deion Duncan, Jack Hendrix and Mayson Thompson.