Kip Veale is right at home among the throngs of people who are participating in Rendezvous at Shipyard’s Park. As Yukoners celebrate the coming of spring and the longer hours of daylight, Veale stands outside a large camping tent. She engages passersby with a bright smile and an infectious sense of enthusiasm.

But there’s something special about her purpose here, and the tent she’s standing in front of is not as ordinary as it looks. It’s part of a program run by the Rotary Club, called ShelterBox.

Veale explains the initiative: “There are so many different aid groups out there doing important things. They are concerned with medicine and food and water. ShelterBox is a unique program; it deals with the problem of providing shelter.”

A shelter box is a large green, Tupperware-like container filled to the brim with survival gear. There is a family-sized tent in there — like the one Veale is standing in front of — but there are also blankets, a water filtration system, pots and pans, tools and many other essentials.

“Everything in the box is useful,” Veale explains, “even the container itself can be used as a bathtub.”

When people of a particular region are forced out of their homes in large numbers, shelter boxes begin to show up and get dispersed among the displaced population.

Each unit costs $1,000. The money for these boxes comes from donations. When she first heard about the program, Veale knew she wanted to raise the funds necessary to purchase these boxes and send them to places in need.

“I was down in Victoria and I went out to the Oak Bay Rotary Club to visit Ted Harrison. He didn’t show up, but there were two people doing a presentation on ShelterBox. I felt like I was meant to be there.”

Since then, Veale has galvanized us to give money to this worthy cause. In the wake of Haiti’s earthquake in January, the whole program has taken on new dimensions of urgency. However, according to Veale, we have risen to the challenge and, indeed, surpassed expectations.

“I give all the credit to Yukoners,” says Veale. It’s obvious that she is a little bit uneasy about the personal attention she has received as of late. “In all of Canada, 3,500 boxes have been donated, 50 of those boxes come from here. Talk about punching above your weight.”

According to Veale, there is something about our territory that encourages us to ‘punch above our weight’: “I lived in inner-city Toronto and we were all just tiny cogs, but in the Yukon you realize that one person really can make a difference.”

And make a difference she has. Before initiating the Yukon’s participation in the ShelterBox, Veale was one of the founding members of Yukon Hospice as well as the chair of the Yukon Child Care Association.

More recently, she was a volunteer at the 2007 Canada Winter Games.

Veale’s life and volunteer work has been guided by a realization she made early in life: “No matter how little you may have, other people have less and it’s important to learn from those people. I was raised to believe that, and I haven’t changed my mind.”

If you are interested in contributing to ShelterBox, you can contact Kip Veale at 667-7577.