ShelterBox Disaster Relief Visitor Centre opens in Cornwall, UK
Right now, over 85 million people around the world have been made homeless by natural disaster and conflict. ShelterBox is a charity working to change this by providing emergency shelter and tools for families robbed of their homes by catastrophic events, whether this be Hurricane Irma across the Caribbean, floods in Bangladesh, or war in Syria. Based in Cornwall, in the South West of the UK but working all over the world, ShelterBox delivers thousands of ShelterBoxes and ShelterKits annually, designed to enable families to start re-building their lives and their homes. A ShelterBox includes everything that a family of 5 requires in order to survive in the aftermath of a disaster, and inside their distinctive and sturdy green boxes you’ll find family-sized tents and all of the items that help transform shelter into a home, like cooking sets, solar lights and activity sets for children.
When Shelterbox decided to move into new premises in the historic city of Truro in order to better co-ordinate their emergency relief operations, they realised that a 500m2 space on the ground floor presented them with a great opportunity to showcase their work and values both to their existing supporters and also, to those who were curious to learn more about what this charity does. They realised, as our own research has previously confirmed, that an hour-long immersion into a visitor attraction such as the ShelterBox Disaster Relief Visitor Experience has an impact on visitors that is significantly higher and results in an experience more memorable than any paid-for advertising campaign. Like any successful charity, ShelterBox is reliant on volunteers and donations in order to operate in an increasingly competitive third sector and this exposure and the chance to offer visitors an insight into their work is vital.
However, in a tourist hot spot like Cornwall, there are many attractions competing for the time of tourists and residents, from the Eden Project, Flambards theme park and the Tate St.Ives through to the unique Minack Theatre and the national Maritime Museum, Falmouth. ShelterBox, a world-class disaster relief agency, had no experience of the sector and realised quickly that they would require professional advice to plan the design, development and operation of the new visitor centre. A chance conversation with ShelterBox COO Michael Johns on the 19.00 Great Western train out of Paddington heading to the West Country led to a meeting in December 2016 to discuss their aims and objectives and subsequently, to us at Petersham Group offering our experience advising on the development and operation of attraction and
museums. Starting out with a comprehensive review of their business plan, we went on to join exhibitions and interpretation specialist Ben Lumby and ShelterBox’s Visitor Experience Manager Lesley-Ann Eaton-Keen to draw up a design brief and interpretation strategy and to select a design and fit out team for the new attraction. After inviting a number of pitches from qualified agencies, we selected 20/20 Projects of Falmouth and at the beginning of February 2017, they started work on a fast track design and build programme. Advising on marketing strategy meanwhile was Nikki Smith, Managing Director at Flamingo Marketing
Opening at the end of July 2017, the ShelterBox Disaster Relief Visitor Experience encourages visitors to find out more about how ShelterBox responds to natural disasters and conflict and lets them discover how they can play a part in helping people across the globe to rebuild their own lives.
Giving visitors a unique insight into the always-busy operations centre and an opportunity for them to stand on the packing line and pack their own ShelterBox with the guidance of experienced volunteers, they can see how ShelterBox sources the latest equipment and the fastest delivery methods to send shelter to families when they need it most. Visitors can step inside tents and shelters to hear inspiring stories of how ShelterBox helps survivors of worldwide conflict and natural disasters, as well allowing them to take part in their own Disaster Challenge with live weather maps and global operations updates. The Visitor Experience is free to enter, although a donation is encouraged. However, the main objective is to turn the curious or casual visitor into committed supporters of this vital charity, a job it has successfully been doing now for several months.