This week we at Addicted are inspired by Stephanie Christenson, the Executive Director of ShelterBox Canada.
I had the pleasure of meeting Stephanie this past September at Beakerhead, the science, technology and arts festival in Calgary. Stephanie was part of a panel on Social Innovation, representing Shelterbox Canada. ShelterBox is an international disaster relief charity specializing in high-tech emergency shelters for those in need. Think of refugees fleeing their homes from war, or victims of natural disaster who’ve lost everything, including their homes; that’s who ShelterBox helps. The mission of ShelterBox is, in their words “In the aftermath of disaster, we will ensure that no family is left without shelter.” They deliver the essentials that people need to rebuild their lives in the face if unimaginable disaster. Their sturdy green ShelterBoxes contain family-sized tents specially designed to withstand the elements and provide people with temporary shelter until they are able to start the process of rebuilding a home. Their ShelterKits contain all of the essential tools people need to start repairing and rebuilding homes, ensuring that a community struck by disaster can get back on its feet. These boxes and kits are delivered to where they are needed most by highly trained ShelterBox Response Team (SRT) Members, located around the world, ensuring that wherever disaster strikes, a member of the ShelterBox team is nearby to send the help victims need to recover and rebuild.
After hearing about Shelterbox and seeing the amazing work that they do, I knew I had to feature them here. That feeling was only compounded by meeting Stephanie, whose energy and passion for the cause made me all the more certain that I needed to help shed light on this organization.
Along with working for ShelterBox, Stephanie is an all around humanitarian professional. Along with a Bachelor’s degree in International Development from Queen’s University, Stephanie has also earned a Master’s degree in International Development and Humanitarian Emergencies from the London School of Economics. She began her career in International Development working for CIDA and local charities throughout East Africa, where she developed curriculum for HIV/AIDS Education in primary schools. After living in Kenya during the famine in 2011, Stephanie moved into the humanitarian disaster relief field, which lead her to working for ShelterBox’s Canadian arm, ShelterBox Canada, where she’s been working for three years. Stephanie now works to ensure that no family is left without shelter and supplies after disasters.
Inspired yet? I know I am. Read on and get inspired along with me.
How did you get involved with the work you currently do?
I started my career in International Development and got a job in Kenya when I finished undergrad. I was living in Kenya in 2011 during the East African famine. Experiencing a famine made me realize that I wanted to switch gears into the humanitarian sector. I went back to school to do a Master’s degree in Humanitarian Emergencies at the London School of Economics. After returning to Canada, I found ShelterBox and have never looked back!
What is your WHY?
When I started at ShelterBox I loved how practical the ShelterBox solution is – families are being provided exactly what they need to survive and recover after a disaster, and donors know exactly where their money is going. It was a charity I could easily get on board with. Now, having delivered ShelterBox aid myself and seen the impact it has on families who have lost everything, those families are my why. I know that every dollar I raise is going to help another family and that keeps me going.
What are some of the successes (big or small) you’ve had?
When I started full time at ShelterBox Canada, I was the only employee. We have since grown to a team of three and almost doubled our baseline revenue, which means we can help more families. This is a success that I am very proud of. I have also watched and been a part of ShelterBox globally growing and becoming a leader in humanitarian shelter provision. It has been a very exciting few years and I hope we can continue this success as the need for our aid is growing rapidly.
Who (person or organization) inspires you?
While there are a number of well known people I look up to, I think I am most inspired by an encounter we had with a donor at an event. We had the ShelterBox tent set up at yoga-in-the-park event. People made a donation to ShelterBox Canada to participate in the yoga class. At one point, a homeless man came over and donated 25 cents from his cup. He said that being homeless himself, he saw the importance in what we do for families who have lost their homes. Every time I think of this, I am reminded that we all can help others in small ways, and that kindness will always trump hate. His generosity inspires me to be kind, and help others whenever I have the opportunity to.
If you could pick one charitable organization to ask our readers to donate to or volunteer with, which would it be?
ShelterBox Canada! Not just because I work there, I am fully dedicated to this cause and we are always looking for new volunteers and donors. We are on the ground 365 days a year helping families, so we need all the support we can get!
Donate to Shelterbox Canada today through their website, and keep up with them on social media: