Tim Vile

Former firefighter, ShelterBox Response Volunteer

Meet Tim


Former firefighter Tim lives in Guildford, Surrey.

He has responded to six disasters, on four different continents, with ShelterBox:

  1. Philippines, Bohol Earthquake, 2013
  2. Turkey, working in response to the conflict in Syria, 2014
  3. Philippines, Typhoon Haiyan, 2014
  4. Balkans, flooding, 2014
  5. Fiji, Cyclone Winston, 2016
  6. Peru, flooding, 2017

With more than 34 years in the Fire and Rescue Service, I’ve encountered people in crisis many times. My deployments have been extremely varied but the common theme is dealing at a human level with tragedy in the early stages of any disaster or recovery process.

Tim Vile

Tim's report from Peru


Tim has volunteered for ShelterBox as a Response Team Volunteer for many years – most recently in Peru after massive flooding in early 2017. 

More than half a million people in and around the capital, Lima, were affected by storms and flooding in spring 2017.

As the world looked on in shock, Tim flew out with ShelterBox to help.

In this excerpt from his diary, Tim describes what the conditions were like:

‘I’m in the town of Puira, 600 miles to the north of Lima, an incredibly hectic and usually a dry, dusty town. The town was flooded in parts by the river of the same name, as well as heavy rains. There are no road drains so water simply fills the streets.’

Tim Vile Peru car under rubble

‘When the 35°C sun emerges it dries and reverts to the usual dust clouds, so life is either dust or mud. A plague of tree crickets has decided to invade houses and buildings in the town.

‘We visited the small town of Catacaos, which is eight km away and very close to the river. A metre of water has flooded the town several times. The low lying flat land means the water is slow to run off, and the strong sun soon leaves deep semi-liquid mud on roads and throughout thousands of homes.

‘Many houses built from less substantial materials have simply been destroyed.

We saw people still very much struggling with the early effects of a disaster. Adults normally at work, were standing with their families. There was none of the hustle of usual daily life.

Tim Vile Peru child on chair between rubble

‘The only dry area is the embanked main road. I met a family who are living on the verge which is only about two metres wide at best. Without shelter from the sun or rains they try to live, eat and sleep on this narrow strip sandwiched between busy traffic and stagnant, stinking water.

‘With genuine tears they told me that they had not had drinking water for some days but the tankers were now starting to deliver. They’ve had to kill two snakes so far, with the constant threat of more.

‘The smell is a combination of congealing river mud and stagnant water. It is the first thing you notice on arrival and lingers long after you’ve gone.

‘However, I am reminded that to the affected people the smell is the least of their immediate concerns.’

Despite the difficult conditions, our ShelterBox Response Teams persevered. With help from Rotary International, our teams were able to provide shelter to 980 families in Piura, as well as a further 1,000 in the region of Trujillo.

The aid we provided not only included shelter kits, containing all the materials needed to build emergency shelters and to repair buildings, but vital items such as solar lights and mosquito nets.

Bringing shelter, and hope, to people who have been struck by disaster around the world is what drives Tim. Find out about what drives some of our other volunteers, and how you could become a volunteer yourself.

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