In retirement, David Hatcher discovered what a real disaster looked like, when he visited Sri Lanka after the tsunami of 2004.
The impact of the tragedy moved David and prompted him to share his expertise in problem solving and troubleshooting to help victims. He started raising money for an organisation called ShelterBox, an international disaster relief charity which sends emergency shelters, tools and resources for families in need.
David, now in his late 60s and living in Maidstone, Kent, trained as a ShelterBox response team member in 2009 and has since travelled to disaster areas across the world, including the Haiti earthquake in 2010, landslides and floods in Brazil in 2011 and the “super typhoon” in the Philippines in 2013. He also led a team to assist in the clear-up after flooding and landslides in Nepal in 2014.
Much of the fundraising for ShelterBox is coordinated by Rotary clubs across the UK and David, as a past president of the Medway branch, is a keen ambassador for the charity, giving talks to organisations across Kent. One of his engagements was to a Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce lunch at Canterbury in April, where he shared experiences of life as a response team member.
David told his audience: “ShelterBox helped me realise how lucky we are to have been born in the UK. I understood that here we deal with big incidents, but not real disasters, where people’s lives are changed for years, sometimes with no prospect of recovery. These victims are left with nothing.”
As a serving police officer for 34 years, David said he had experienced various emergencies including the Herald of Free Enterprise ferry disaster in 1987, the Ladbroke Grove and Potters Bar rail crashes, social unrest and major weather-induced incidents. He was also the main presenter of TV’s Crimewatch programme for many years.
In Haiti in 2010, the Philippines in 2013 and Nepal in 2014, David saw real hardship. “People lost everything,” he said. “We came along and were able to make an immediate difference to their lives, bringing tents, thermal blankets, mosquito nets, water filters, pots and pans, tool kits, clothing, even books and pencils to keep children occupied.”
David demonstrated one of ShelterBox’s more innovative gadgets – a blow-up, solar-powered light, which can be put into action in minutes and provide illumination for families in need.
He is a passionate advocate for the charity and happy to talk to groups who would like to support fundraising.