ShelterBox’s Keith Henderson returns home from Malawi

By Joel Hersch

SANTA CRUZ >> To help people understand the volunteer work Keith Henderson does on behalf of ShelterBox, he asks them to imagine a scenario: All is lost.

“Assume that everything you had was gone,” he said. “And then think, what things are the most important. It’s a good way to put what’s happening (in some disaster zones) into perspective.”

That was exactly the scenario Henderson found during his deployment last month to Malawi, a landlocked country in Southeastern Africa, where massive floods earlier this year have forced more than 300,000 people from their homes and affected more than a million, according to the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund, or UNICEF.

Florida-based ShelterBox USA responds to disaster zones around the world with durable tent-housing and other emergency supplies. The organization got its start in 2000 in England.

Henderson, who works locally as senior project manager at Barry Swenson Builder and has volunteered with ShelterBox since 2009, flew into Malawi’s second largest city, Blantyre, in early February. The three-member team negotiated its way through customs — which can be exceptionally complicated with the bulky, green, 75-pound boxes of gear that give the organization its name. They rented all-terrain vehicles with local drivers and then made their way about 40 miles south to Zomba, a smaller more rural community that had not yet received any outside assistance.

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