A grandmother-of-nine from Cambridgeshire who camped out in her garden for 40 nights for charity has raised more than £2,000 for ShelterBox. Faced with some harsh weather conditions, Valerie Allen, 78, remained dedicated to her cause, sleeping under canvas every night, to raise awareness and funds for the international disaster relief charity.
ShelterBox provides emergency shelter and other essential items to people all over the world who have lost their homes due to conflict or disaster. It’s currently supporting people affected by the devastating earthquakes in Türkiye and Syria, the ongoing war in Ukraine, Cyclone Freddy in Malawi, and the worst drought to hit East Africa in 40 years.
Valerie lives in Ely and hadn’t slept in a tent for over a decade before taking on the challenge.
“I made the decision to sleep in a tent for 40 nights when the earthquakes in Turkey and Syria happened as I could not begin to imagine how it might feel to lose your home and even loved ones in a matter of minutes, so Tent for Lent was a challenge I felt I had to do.
“The reaction from my husband, family, and friends was mixed. I think some were concerned for my welfare but when they all realised I was determined to do it they were very supportive.”
Valerie took on the fundraiser as part of ShelterBox’s annual Tent for Lent campaign, which encourages people to give up something, donating what they raise or save to help fund the charity’s work supporting displaced people across the world.
“I did feel a little vulnerable sleeping outside under canvas on my own, although I was in our relatively secure garden. I hadn’t taken into account the snow, rain, wind and zero temperatures but the dawn chorus every morning was special, if a little early.
“It was certainly a very strange experience, not only for me but David my husband of 57 years who was very supportive, made sure I was zipped up in the tent every night but then had to leave me and go back into the house.”
Louisa Arnold, ShelterBox Community Fundraising Officer, said:
“Valerie’s challenge serves as a reminder of the incredible impact that one person can have when they put their mind to it.
“Her determination and selflessness in giving up her bed for 40 nights are truly inspiring, and it is our supporters like Valerie who make such a valuable difference to the lives of people they will never meet.
“Every pound raised will go towards supporting families who have lost everything in disasters, conflict, and other humanitarian crises around the world.”
ShelterBox provides different combinations of emergency shelter aid, support, and essential household items. This includes items like tents, tarpaulins, tool kits, blankets, mosquito nets, solar lights, cooking sets, water carriers and filters, as well as cash, training, and other solutions.
“I was pleased to finish the challenge as the joints were getting a little stiff. I was overwhelmed by the financial support from family, friends and colleagues. I had no idea at the start that I would be able to raise over £2,000.
“Their concern regarding whether I was warm enough and getting enough sleep, was touching.
“I would encourage anyone thinking about supporting your ShelterBox, it just feels a very positive way to help people in distress.”
Since being founded in 2000, ShelterBox has helped more than 2.5 million displaced people across 98 countries. The charity is currently helping people displaced by conflict in places like Yemen, Syria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, and Mozambique.
For more information about ShelterBox, please visit: shelterbox.org.