An 11-year-old Taranaki girl swapped her bedroom for a tent in July to help bring shelter to Ukrainian refugees.
Matilda Kitson signed up for ShelterBox NZ’s OffTheGrid challenge, spending a cold, wet and windy night in a tent in her back garden, with no internet or devices to entertain herself.
OffTheGrid is a new fundraising challenge for ShelterBox NZ this year. It challenges participants like Matilda to sign up, camp out and turn off all their technology, or items using electricity, to give insight into what life might be like in the aftermath of a disaster where homes can be lost, such as war or cyclones.
Despite it being a very cold and stormy night when Matilda and her mum Lisa swapped their warm and cosy home for a tent outside, the caring tween says she is pleased she took on the challenge.
She says refugees face a lot more challenges than just going without their bed for a night.
“To get food and water would be hard. We could get the food we needed because we knew we were going to be camping and we had a plan, but if they didn’t know they would lose their home they couldn’t get the food and water they would need. Also, not everyone would have a good enough tent to last a long time, especially in way colder places, so staying warm would be really hard, as would be getting sick if there was no medicine.”
While turning off the technology might be a tough challenge for many kids her age, Matilda says the challenge was easier than she had expected.
“It was fun. We played games and read books and talked a lot. I slept better than in my own bed.”
The hardest part was dealing with the night part of it, she says.
“I don’t like the dark so that was scary.”
Matilda enjoyed cooking her food on the campfire - especially the “melty bananas”, but appreciates it is a different doing it for one night, rather than facing an uncertain future with no oven or other household essentials, which is where international disaster relief organisations such as ShelterBox are essential.
For more than 20 years ShelterBox has helped families devastated by natural disasters and conflicts around the world. Currently the charity is working in Ukraine, Syria, Turkey and Cameroon as well as many other places.
ShelterBox provides tents, shelter kits, cooking equipment, solar lights, hammers, ropes, water purification units and other items that will all make a substantial difference when it comes to recovering from disaster or sheltering from conflict.
Matilda’s mum Lisa, who along with the family dog “and best mate” Rhea, spent the night outside in the tent with Matilda, says she was really pleased Matilda decided to take on the challenge.
“Although it’s just 24 hours it will give her a small insight into what refugees might face when they lose their homes, very similar to what some of the Ukrainian kids have had to go through over the last few years.”
Matilda says she will “definitely” do another OffTheGrid challenge.
“I love camping and the campfire was fun. I was happy and felt useful that we could raise money to help.”