It’s the busiest time of the year for a Scilly flower farmer, but Ben Julian, co-owner of St Martin’s-based Scilly Flowers, has flown off to Malaysia as a ShelterBox volunteer to help those whose homes have been destroyed by intense monsoon flooding.
Ben and his fellow volunteers are assessing the need for shelter boxes and making sure any help the Helston-based charity can provide reaches those who need it most.
This is Ben’s second deployment for ShelterBox since he completed his training in 2012. His first was to the Philippines last year.
He’s currently in north east Malaysia where reports suggest around 200,000 people have had to leave their homes because of the flooding. Whole towns have been submerged in some places.
With other volunteers Ben has been travelling deep into the rainforest to assess the situation for families living along the River Timbeling, north of Kampong Kuhala Tuan.
Most of these villages are accessible only by boat, and it takes several hours travel to reach those furthest away.
Ben said: “In the Kampong Kuala Sat we met Zul Kefli in what used to be his family home. Only the floor was left. His house had been built of concrete, but it wasn’t strong enough when the massive flood came. The family managed to evacuate, but they had no time to plan their escape and left everything behind. They have lost everything.”
In these situations Ben’s job is to deliver the boxes that contain life-saving equipment – a family-sized tent, thermal blankets, ground sheets, water storage and purification equipment, solar lamps, cooking utensils, a basic tool kit, mosquito nets and a children’s activity pack.
Whilst he’s away, Ben’s wife, Zoe, has been left to manage their postal flower delivery business without him.
She said: “You’d think it would be the worst time for him to leave work – it is the busiest – but in actual fact it’s quite do-able. We’re well organised and have an excellent team working here on the farm.
“The worst part is that the children and I miss him, but we know he’s doing an amazing and vital job and with social media it’s really easy to keep in touch, amazingly even in the middle of a rainforest!”
Ben decided to become a volunteer when a ShelterBox representative visited St Martin’s school to talk to the children about the charity’s work. Ben was asked to give him and his shelter box a lift from the island’s quay to the school, they got talking and Ben was inspired to apply to join the response team. He has committed to volunteer for a mission a year.
Ends 27 January 2015
Photos: The Shelterbox team before setting off for Malaysia. Ben Julian is second from the right at the front.
Ben at work in Malaysia
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