Charity is in crisis
8:50am Friday 5th October 2012 in News
Helston aid charity ShelterBox was thrown into turmoil again this week after one affiliated country withdrew its support following the dismissal of founder Tom Henderson and links with another were “terminated.”
This all comes as so-called ‘leaked documents’ make further claims about Mr Henderson’s unexpected departure in July.
ShelterBox has said it is “deeply disappointed” over the allegations, referring to “misleading and partial information” being leaked in recent weeks that it described as a “smear campaign” against the board.
The charity confirmed that Norway had decided not to continue its relationship with the ShelterBox Trust. The country accounts for 0.5 per cent of the charity’s revenue.
Other countries have also shown concern, with two senior representatives of ShelterBox USA even travelling to the UK for crisis talks with the charity.
President Emily Sperling and chairman of the board of the directors Bill Decker met with board members, senior staff and lawyers in London to discuss the “pivotal change in the organisation” represented by Mr Henderson’s departure.
They also spoke with Tom Henderson himself, as well as trust chairman Ian Munday and Sir John Banham – who resigned as a ShelterBox trustee in August – during a two-week investigation.
Since then Mr Decker, a personal friend of Mr Henderson, has written a letter to the head of all ShelterBox International (SBI) affiliates saying he believed the board of trustees and senior management “behaved with integrity and fairness”, acting “to protect the long-term interests of the organisation.”
He wrote: “In our meeting we felt SBI were nothing but factual and composed about the history and series of events leading up to the unfortunate end of Tom’s tenure at ShelterBox. It’s noteworthy that SBI showed great concern and respect for Tom’s privacy and reputation.”
Mr Decker also concluded that Mr Henderson had been “offered numerous opportunities” to remain involved with the charity.
He recognised many affiliates had been “dubious of SBI’s path” over the matter and had responded to the news with votes of no confidence and “some rather unsavoury emails.” However, he encouraged them to contact SBI directly in order to “shed some very valuable light” on what had happened.
Mr Decker described it as a “gut-wrenching and painful” process, but added: “I am convinced that the path forward is clear and that SBI senior management and board of trustees have set the correct course ahead – a sentiment shared by the American board of members of ShelterBox USA.”
This week ShelterBox said a “smear campaign” against the board of the ShelterBox Trust gave a “wholly one-sided, selective and inaccurate picture” of circumstances leading to Mr Henderson’s dismissal.
A spokesperson said: “This smear campaign grossly misrepresents the situation and by doing so threatens all that ShelterBox does to save and protect lives around the world.”
She added that the charity was grateful to its volunteers, staff and donors who had “been able to see beyond inaccurate and misleading information” to ensure it could continue its mission unhindered.
The spokesperson said professional legal guidance had been sought throughout the whole process, adding: “It is disappointing that those involved in the smear campaign are seeking to damage an organisation and individuals within it who are involved, many on a voluntary basis, to alleviate suffering around the world.”
The board was “compelled to act” in compliance with charitable legislation and informed the Charity Commission of England and Wales of actions taken, she said.
In a separate matter, ShelterBox has had its affiliated status terminated, with a spokesperson for the charity saying the French board had been given the opportunity to “demonstrate its commitment to ShelterBox's mission.”
She said: “Our other international affiliates expressed great concern that ShelterBox France had become increasingly isolated and after discussion it was agreed that their affiliate status should be terminated.
“It is regrettable this has happened at this time but was seen as necessary to build a stronger and more professional ShelterBox for the future.”