Helping out people in need is an ethos by which Tim Vile has lived his life, so when he retired as a firefighter the decision to continue lending his hand to others came naturally.
He knew about the charity, Shelterbox through his work with Farnborough Rotary Club but decided to become more active in 2013 and was sent on his first deployment.
The 62-year-old has visited countries which have been hit by earthquakes, flooding and super storms and helps to provide emergency shelter for families who have lost their homes.
“It's connected with my career [as a firefighter] and ethos with helping people and it seemed a good extension of the fundraising work to get more involved on the ground as a response team member,” Tim said.
When an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.2 hit the island of Bohol in the Philippines, killing hundreds and leaving thousands displaced, Tim was one of the first volunteers sent out to the disaster.
He and two other colleagues were based near the epicentre and he helped to provide tents and non-food items to people whose lives were turned upside down by the quake.
Tim said he felt inspired by the people and their attitude – rather than being knocked down by this freak disaster, they chose to pick themselves up, carry on and rebuild their lives.
'They don't want to descend into a pit of despair'
“The satisfaction that you get from doing it was amazing. Why does a fireman go to work after a fire? Why does a nurse go to work after having a patient die? You do it because it inspires you and you want to expand on your experience and use those experiences to help more and more people,” Tim explained.
“I find the attitude and resilience of the people that we help just so inspiring. They have lost everything and yet they want to move on they want to rebuild, and the equipment we give them helps them to do that. They don't want to descend into a pit of despair. It's so inspiring.”
Shelterboxes are designed to help people who have lost everything. Each box contains a family-sized tent, water storage and purification equipment, thermal blankets, mosquito nets, solar lights and cooking utensils to help start the process of creating a home.
“If you can give somebody a Shelterbox, which is a couple of pieces of good tarpaulin, tools, nails, hammers and things like that, they can repair their home and be at home where their livelihood is, where their farm is, where their livestock and friends and neighbours are. Sometimes thats the best way to go,” Tim explained.
'I felt so incredibly humbled'
Tim recalls his first deployment in the Philippines he handed over a Shelterbox to a family and explained how it was used.
“I shook hands with the father and I turned around and his son, who was about 10 years old, he offered his hand to me and I thought he wanted to shake hands so I gave him my hand and he very solemnly placed it on his forehead,” Tim recalls.
“All the other kids came up and did the same and my interpreter said to me, they are blessing you and I have to say, I felt so incredibly humbled, these people were blessing me. I am going back to Hampshire and to my unaffected house and my life and that was so humbling and inspiring. That's why I do it - because it make such a difference to people.”
Along with the Philippines, Tim has visited Turkey at the Syrian border where Shelterbox looked into agencies to deliver aid to refugees in Syria.
In February 2014 he returned to the Philippines after a super storm – Super Typhoon Haiyan – struck Bohol just three weeks after the quake.
More than 6,000 people were confirmed dead and it was one of the most intense tropical cyclones on record.
Later that year, Tim went out to the Balkans in 2014 after a large area of Southeastern and Central Europe was hit by floods and landslides. Shelterbox had to import thousands of mosquito nets and hundreds of thousands of people were forced from their homes.
In April 2016, Fiji was hit by a super storm - the largest recorded in the southern hemisphere – with winds recorded well over 200mph.
“The entire island appeared like a hairdryer had gone over it, the entire jungle and 14 villages were decimated. There was no food on the island, no drinking water, so they desperately needed water filtration and shelter,” Tim said.
Experience in Peru
Most recently Tim travelled out to Peru when the floods hit earlier this year. More than half a million people were affected by storms and flooding.
As the world looked on in shock and several cities declared a state of emergency, Tim arrived to help bring practical help to those in need.
He travelled to the small town of Catacaos, which is very close to the river, which had suffered frequent and regular flooding up to chest height after rivers burst their banks.
“The rain left the towns either washed away or inhabitable, just as the families were clearing the water away, the rain would come again and again and again,” Tim said.
While in Catacaos he met a family who were living on the roadside sandwiched between busy traffic and stagnant water, trying to live, eat and sleep on an area only about two metres wide.
“With genuine tears they told me they had not had drinking water for some days but the tankers had started to deliver. They had to kill two snakes with the constant threat of more,” Tim said.
'Naturally it brings out the emotion in you'
Even though he has worked for the fire service for 35 years, Tim said the situations he is faced with on these trips brings out the emotion inside of him.
“We are dealing with real people in real crises and sometimes in situations they cannot control. To offer somebody something for nothing is a gift for them and to be able to give them something often brings out emotional in them and naturally we pick up on that as well," he said.
“When we get home, it's a little surreal as we are coming back to a really safe and secure environment. It can be surreal. It takes a while to get back to normal again.”
The retired firefighter recommends everyone get involved with Shelterbox for its great attitude and as Tim put it “taking every pound of the donor's money and making the maximum use of it”.
“When people get to know the organisation, they understand we are not throwing money at things. They become very aware that every pound is incredibly valuable. Shelterbox is incredibly reliant on its volunteers and we are looking to encourage as many people to get involved,” Tim continued.
“There is nothing more satisfying for me than being able to be involved in an organisation that I can trust, providing aid around the world to people that you know really, really need it.”Find out more and get involved at shelterbox.org, or follow them on Twitter @ShelterBox, or facebook.com/shelterbox.