As the global TV triumph that is Doc Martin approaches the last episode of its final series, its adored cast members have been reflecting on another international success story based in Cornwall – the disaster relief charity, ShelterBox.
Like Doc Martin, ShelterBox evolved from small beginnings and is now recognised worldwide. It’s perhaps why the cast has been so generous with their time in supporting the Truro-based charity that specialises in emergency shelters and helps people all over the world.
The medical comedy-drama based in the fictional Cornish village of Portwenn is well-loved, and it’s with that same warm affection that the people in the Duchy and around the world regard ShelterBox.
Martin Clunes, who has played Dr Martin Ellingham for almost two decades, said:
“It’s clear the life-changing impact ShelterBox has on people right across the world.
“When people find themselves in the most desperate of situations, with livelihoods, homes, and sometimes family members, taken from them – emergency shelter can help them with the first step to rebuilding their lives.”
The charity is currently supporting people in Pakistan who have fled severe monsoon flooding. Many families have had their homes washed away and so ShelterBox is working with a trusted partner, Islamic Relief, to provide tents, tarpaulins, water filters, and solar lights to people who need them most.
“The aid items might look quite simple, but they make a difference to people all around the world and they save lives,” says Ben Miller, who plays park ranger Stewart.
“They help people who’ve had to flee conflict, but also people who’ve had their homes destroyed by extreme weather events like typhoons, earthquakes, and flooding.”
Earlier this year ShelterBox was in the Philippines after Typhoon Rai barrelled its way through the country. The charity supported 100,000 people, providing them with the tools and training they needed to rebuild their homes.
“It’s clear that the aid is tangible – it makes a difference – and I think that’s why people like ShelterBox,” says John Marquez, who plays PC Joseph Penhale in the ITV drama series.
“They recognise the importance of community, of home, and they are always working somewhere different helping people most in need.”
As well as helping people in Pakistan, ShelterBox is currently supporting people impacted by the most prolonged drought in 40 years that is devastating East Africa, with more than 36 million people affected.
Al Large actor, Joe Absolom adds: “Once you hear about ShelterBox for the first time, their green boxes become instantly recognisable, and we’ve seen them on set from time to time. When we’re in Cornwall filming, we try and do what we can to help raise awareness of local charities, like ShelterBox.
“It’s how I first heard about them and the crucial work they do to provide emergency shelter to people affected by conflicts in places like Ukraine, Syria, Yemen, and Nigeria, as well as those who’ve had to flee their homes because of hurricanes, flooding, and other disasters.”
Although the green boxes are well-recognised, ShelterBox no longer provides aid only in boxes. The charity works with disaster-affected communities and local partners to understand what people need. Support is provided in many ways and includes different combinations of emergency shelter items and training that are locally appropriate to make the biggest difference for communities after a disaster.
Established in 2000, the same year people were first introduced to the character Doc Martin in the movie Saving Grace, ShelterBox is also supporting people who’ve had to flee conflict in Mozambique, Cameroon, and Ethiopia.
Director of Fundraising and Communications at ShelterBox, Robyn Cummins says:
“We never imagined when Doc Martin first aired in September 2004 that we would receive such amazing support from the cast.
“At the heart of ShelterBox are our supporters and volunteers. This support raises vital awareness of our work and makes it possible for us to support thousands of people across the world every year with emergency shelter aid.
“Doc Martin is leaving a huge legacy here in Cornwall and further afield. We’re so grateful for their warm and thoughtful support over the years to help more people know about our charity and the work we do.”