A Swansea schoolteacher has returned home ‘in awe’ of the work carried out by a disaster relief charity helping Syrian refugees.
Matt Roberts, 29, travelled to neighbouring Iraq, which is besieged by thousands of people fleeing Syria, on his first deployment for ShelterBox.
The organisation provides temporary living accommodation in the form of tents and urgent supplies to those in desperate need worldwide.
Matt, from Neath, said: “ShelterBox has found itself in quite exceptional circumstances as it has not been involved with a humanitarian crisis on this scale before. I am so in awe of what I witnessed and the work we did out there, it is truly humbling and an experience that everyone should have at least once.”
The design and technology teacher who works at Cwm Tawe Community School had the full support of his head teacher to make his recent trip.
“I received a phone call on the Monday saying ShelterBox was deploying me on the Wednesday,” said Matt. “I told the school straight away and they were hugely supportive. Staff and pupils have previously raised money to buy two boxes and thanks to the unique tracking number each box has we were able to see that it had gone to Haiti to help people there.”
Matt’s personal experience of ShelterBox followed a move to Cornwall to study. After hearing about the work of the Helston-based charity, he applied to become an intern for six months. Several years later after carrying out his training as a ShelterBox Response Team member, Matt was drafted on his first deployment.
“The day I arrived there were around 500-1,000 people reportedly trying to find refuge at the large United Nations camp. It actually felt like more people were looking for a safe place to stay; it was pretty moving,” said Matt.
The response team immediately set up the 500 ShelterBox tents that had been sent to provide some comfort to families. Matt said: “I felt immensely privileged and proud to be part of such an amazing organisation. The people were just so glad we were there and were blown away by the generosity of people thousands of miles away donating money to help them.”
Memories of the trip helping Syrian refugees will stay with 29-year-old Matt for a long time, as he described the difficulties people faced getting to the camp: “As we were leaving, having deployed all our tents, we saw an influx of people. One family had clearly been walking for days, they were caked in mud and a toddler was sat in a puddle crying.”
Knowing that the ShelterBox tents were solid and able to withstand the winter weather was of comfort to Matt having seen the condition that people were arriving in. “The tents really did stand above the other facilities at the camp, our tents were breathable and reflected the cold. It was good to know families would have somewhere to sleep at night thanks to the efforts of everyone who supports ShelterBox,” he said.
Matt is now in high demand from the different departments at his school and local community groups who want to know about his experiences. “I’ve been buzzing ever since I returned and have been talking about the trip constantly, it’s so important that people know how hard everyone is working to help those fleeing Syria.”
For more information on how to donate or support ShelterBox visit www.shelterbox.org
To listen to Matt’s experiences in as audio slideshow please visit: http://shelterbox.org/news_global.php?id=1063
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