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Damaged buildings near the epicentre
Somerset man delivers big green boxes of hope to Chinese
A man from Somerset has travelled to the epicentre of the earthquake which has so far claimed tens of thousands of lives to deliver big green boxes full of life-saving equipment.
When disaster strikes, many international aid companies including Oxfam and The Red Cross immediately flood to the scene.
But one small Cornish charity is always there making as big an impact to victims' lives as the bigger well-funded charities.
Shelterbox provides a big green box which is jammed full of equipment to keep a family of ten alive and safe for up to six months. The box contains a tent, a warm bed, water purification tablets and other necessities.
Having sent around 1,000 boxes to cyclone-hit Burma, the charity is now turning its attention to helping the victims of China's worse natural disaster for 30 years.
And one of its two volunteers who are going to deliver the aid is 24-year-old Thomas Lay from Glastonbury.
Thomas received the call that he was to drop everything and travel to China on Wednesday. By Friday morning he had a highly sought-after visa in his pocket and on Saturday he was on a 10-hour flight to Beijing. By Monday he'll be in the disaster struck Changdu City in the Sichuan Province.
""It's very exciting and nerve-wrecking at the same time. I'm very apprehensive but very glad to be going," said Thomas.
Thomas first learned about Shelterbox from an Oxfam aid worker he met while he was travelling in Bolivia.
Thomas wants to be a photojournalist
When Thomas arrived home, he looked into exactly what the charity does and was so impressed he decided to volunteer. After receiving basic training, his first deployment in March 2007 was to the country which started it all - Bolivia.
He spent a month there to help the victims of the flood. His second deployment was to Somaliland in west Africa.
"The work is incredibly frustrating (due to the politics and red tape) but also very worthwhile. I get to experience life which is different but helping people who need help is very fulfilling."
While in Somaliland, he was working in an IDP (internally displaced people) camp.
"The people were living in shacks which were covered with whatever they could find. Tins, like baked bean ones, were opened and flattened out and clothes were woven together to make the roof. There was nothing on the ground so when it rained the shack was washed out and everything was ruined.
"When we came and gave them equipment, you could see the appreciation. It wasn't over the top but you could see the gratitude in their eyes. You can't really put it into words."
Shelterbox has sent boxes to Burma
Whenever Thomas travels to these disaster-struck places, there is always a huge culture shock which makes him appreciate what we have in this country.
"When you turn on the tap here and there's water that's when it really hits you how lucky we are here. It's a very humble feeling."
Thomas said he hadn't come across death yet so he was very nervous to be travelling to the earthquake's epicentre which has so far seen more than 71,000 people dead, buried or missing.
Shelterbox works with the locals and other NGOs and helps them to distribute the aid rather than doing it for them.
He is travelling with one other person from Shelterbox and is then meeting up with members of the Chinese Rotary Club when he gets there.
"We're in constant contact. We're working with lots of other organisations so it's not like I'm going out blindfolded and on my own."
They have 400 boxes on the way however with an estimated five million people left homeless by the earthquake, thousands more are needed.
last updated: 19/05/2008 at 09:30