Campus: Humboldt State University -- January 28, 2005

Students Test Disaster Shelters

When six new emergency shelters arrive soon in tsunami-ravaged Indonesia to serve as clinics, 40 Humboldt State University students will have had a hand in getting them there.

Earlier this week, the students assembled the shelters on the University Center Quad to put the structures through quality-control inspections before their disassembly and bundling for shipment.

The structures came from World Shelters, an Arcata-based non-profit organization that manufactures durable temporary shelters for international uses as portable medical clinics, for relief housing and as on-site agency centers. World Shelters is sending 20 shelters - including the six erected at HSU - by airfreight to Aceh, Sumatra, within the next few weeks for use by International Medical Corps, a humanitarian group of volunteer physicians and nurses.

The students came from Romi Hitchcock Tinseth's Leadership 250 class, "Orientation Training," which prepares individuals to serve as Humboldt Orientation Program counselors assisting new HSU students.

"Part of the course focuses on bonding and becoming a team," said Tinseth.

"I also wanted a way to incorporate community and world service into the leadership training," she said. "Working with World Shelters in Arcata to help create International Medical Corps clinics in Aceh provides a truly hands-on way to do both."

Since 2000, IMC has provided emergency and primary health care using local staff in Aceh, where the tsunami devastation was extreme.

The shelters being shipped for IMC's use as clinics are 24 feet long, 11 feet wide, and 8.5 feet tall - a seamless blue plastic tarp supported by an external frame of criss-crossing white PVC pipe. With 265 square feet of space, they are larger than most family tents and smaller than most Quonset-hut barracks.

According to World Shelters Executive Director Bruce LeBel, who oversaw the students' assembly-inspection-deassembly efforts, similar structures have seen service throughout the world. LeBel, a former student of legendary design engineer Buckminster Fuller, first worked in providing relief shelter after a 1976 earthquake in Guatemala. In 1983 he and Steven Elias founded World Shelters to address the need for low-cost, durable shelter that could take advantage of the plastic sheeting supplied by relief agencies.

Note to editors and news directors: Six photographs of the assembly of World Shelters' structures by HSU students are in the photo archive of Humboldt State News Online, For a direct link, use this URL:

Source contacts:

Romi Hitchcock Tinseth, Director, Humboldt Orientation Program, (707) 826-3504,,

Bruce LeBel, Executive Director,World Shelters, (707) 822-6600,,

Media Contact: Sean Kearns, Public Affairs, Humboldt State University, (707) 826-5151,

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