Slidell volunteer Ken Thompson has been recognized by President Barack Obama with a Presidential Volunteer Service Award for his work with ShelterBox USA, an organization that supplies emergency aid after a disaster in sturdy green boxes packed with supplies. Thompson, who lives in Slidell, specializes in fundraising and awareness for the program. ShelterBox has deployed 126,000 boxes from a main warehouse in Cornwall, United Kingdom, to shelter people in the aftermath of war and natural disaster in more than 85 countries, including the United States after Hurricane Isaac.
WHAT IS IN A SHELTERBOX?
Our boxes contain a tent that will sustain a family of 10 for six months, and we put in everything we think a family would need to sustain after a disaster. There’s a water filtration kit, wood stove, pots and pans, mosquito nets.
WHERE ARE THEY BEING USED?
We are sending some to Myanmar; there have been some internal conflicts there. There are about a million refugees that have fled in Syria; we are sending boxes there. We recently had a cyclone hit Madagascar, and we have had a rather serious typhoon hit the island of Mindanau, in the Philippines.
WHAT IS YOUR INVOLVEMENT?
My job is in the fundraising and creating awareness for ShelterBox. I also do things internally as part of a national ambassador council. We’re having a field experience training in Central Texas in the middle of April, that I’m going to, to simulate a deployment. We have the guys go through customs and endure some of the harassment. I’m going to be doing some role playing as a tribal chief, competing with another tribal chief over some of the boxes.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?
The cost of sponsorship for one box is $1,000, and that includes the cost of materials and the cost of sending the box. Businesses, churches, staffs — if they want to sponsor a box, we’ll track it for them. We’ll tell you where that box was distributed. The one I bought, they sent to Haiti.
WHAT’S YOUR PROFESSION?
I was in the oilfield, as a petroleum engineer. I’m retired. And I was also a stock broker. Not at the same time. There would be a certain conflict of interest there.
WHAT INTERESTED YOU ABOUT SHELTERBOX?
I had a very successful career as an oil engineer. I felt like it was my turn to give back. During Katrina, my house was in the eye of the storm for 20 minutes. I had 4 feet of water in the house and four trees through my roof. I lived in my driveway in a travel trailer for nine months. I’ve been there. I feel I can relate.