Decker receives national award
Help disaster victims dives him to do more
Bill Decker has a mission.
“On any given day on this planet, 25 million people are without shelter. It’s a basic core need. Every time I go to a disaster zone; when I realize we don’t have enough aid for everyone, it makes me impatient. It makes me eager to do more,” he told The Park Record on Wednesday.
Decker, who lives in Jeremy Ranch, was recently awarded the President’s Volunteer Service Award under President Obama for his efforts in 2016 to assist disaster survivors though the non-profit organization ShelterBox.
“It was a very nice surprise,” he said. “You don’t do this stuff for the recognition, but sometimes, when someone says ‘good job,’ it’s nice to get a pat on the back.”
The “stuff” Decker refers to is field work providing emergency shelter and other lifesaving supplies to areas after natural disasters hit, as well as in devastated war-torn areas. In addition, he is on the ShelterBox USA board of directors, which is the fundraising arm of U.K.-based ShelterBox. He is also a trustee on the ShelterBox Trust UK.
His initial involvement stemmed from a growing dissatisfaction.
“I have a background in international relations, and I developed this view over time that international aid would oftentimes become a black hole. There is a lack of accountability; they lose control of the assets along the way, and there’s no guarantee it reaches the people who need it,” he said.
When Decker was introduced to ShelterBox in 2007, the organization’s commitment appealed to him. “The level of accountability was really compelling to me at the time when I was really pessimistic in the aid market,” he said.
The non-profit “follows refugees,” Decker said, by hand-delivering essential aid, including disaster relief tents, blankets, water filtration systems, solar lights, tools and children’s activity packs.
Decker estimates he spends about two months’ worth of time volunteering for the organization over a year.
“It validated what I thought to really be true by getting into the field and seeing the impact the organization has. You deliver aid to families on the worst day of their lives, and they look you in the eyes with tears and thank you from the bottom of their hearts with what you’ve been able to provide for them,” he said.
One family was so thankful, they asked him to name their newborn child. Decker respectfully declined, saying he felt that responsibility should remain with the family.
Although the field work is important for Decker to continue, he discovered he could do even more for the organization.
“I found I could spend a few hours of my time, and I can generate tremendous amounts of money by telling these stories. That was a light switch, about how effective I can be even here in the U.S., without delivering aid,” he said.
Although his time has been flexible before and after he sold his corporate meeting company, he savors spending time with his family. His activities now include “Daddy Camp” this month for his 8- and 10-year old kids, complete with overnight backpacking, tubing and rock climbing.
But, he says he’ll continue volunteering for ShelterBox too.
“[The recipients] get security right away by getting shelter. Picture people who are exposed to whatever the elements are. For example, in Peru [during the floods] it rained for three months. People were living in mud. The reality is they get the opportunity to stabilize,” he said.
“The experience I get from the field, I wish I could impart that on every capable donor.”
For more information about ShelterBox or to donate, logon to http://www.shelterboxusa.org.
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