Santa Barbara United Nations Association presents Peace Prize
Song and celebration filled Pascucci Restaurant on State Street Monday evening as the Santa Barbara United Nations Association presented ShelterBox USA with the association’s 6th annual Peace Prize.
The Santa Barbara nonprofit — which focuses on providing temporary shelter, cooking supplies and other basic necessities to displaced populations around the world — has supported more than 2.25 million people in nearly 100 countries affected by natural disasters and conflict during its 22 years of service.
The award, which “honors those in our community who advance the causes of peace, human rights, and humanitarian aid globally,” was presented to ShelterBox USA on Monday evening by Santa Barbara City Councilmember Kristen Sneddon, who applauded the work and mission of the locally-based but globally-active nonprofit.
“Past recipients and issues of importance have included human trafficking, climate change, women’s rights, the future of young people, peace, and humanitarian aid,” Councilmember Sneddon said during her remarks. “The recipient tonight also lives those values and carries them to the world in areas of disaster, and is from right here in our wonderful community. Our community that understands the importance of coming together in disaster, understands what it’s like to be suddenly without shelter, without light, without energy or what we need for clean water. And with that understanding, really appreciates what it is that our recipient brings to the world from our local community.”
During her acceptance speech for the award, ShelterBox USA President Kerri Murray thanked all those who have been involved in the organization’s work. She also highlighted the importance of ShelterBox’s mission at a time when war and civil unrest are wreaking havoc at an unprecedented rate across the globe.
“There are more people displaced today than at any time in recorded history. Prior to the conflict in Ukraine, it was 114 million in January of this year,” Ms. Murray said. “Those are people who are displaced not by chronic homelessness. It’s people who’ve lost everything due to disaster situations, war and violent civil unrest. The fastest growing driver in our world today is war and violent conflict, which is driving the majority of displacement of 114 million people.”
Ms. Murray also took time to dedicate the SBUNA Peace Prize to one of ShelterBox’s beneficiaries, a woman named Esther who was displaced from her home in Nigeria at the age of 14 after Boko Haram — an Islamist extremist group operating in Nigera whose name translates to “Western education is forbidden” — murdered her family and used her as target practice after forcing her to flee into the night.
Esther was able to make her way to the Minawao refugee camp in Cameroon, where ShelterBox is the sole provider of tents to new arrivals, and with the help of the organization was able to begin starting a new life.
“She is indicative of the people that we work to find in the world,” Ms. Murray said, speaking of Esther. “Since that time, Esther has married, she has two children; she is the breadwinner and her family. And not only are we supporting newly displaced people in the camp, we’re also helping the long-term displaced who are there for many years — people like Esther — with the basic things they need to survive.”
Also in attendance was Laura Angelini, a Billboard Top 40 vocalist who serves as ShelterBox USA’s artist ambassador, who performed heartful renditions of “I Have a Plan” and “Put a Little Love in Your Heart.”
Prior to the award’s presentation, SB UNA Vice President Barbara Gaughen-Muller spoke regarding the work of her late husband, Robert Muller, who played a formative role in the early days of the United Nations.
Using his example, she urged attendees to take action in their lives to support the United Nations’ mission of ending conflict around the globe.
“The United Nations was not founded on peace. It was founded to avoid the scourge of war,” Mrs. Gaughen-Muller said. “My message tonight is ‘Use your voice.’ We’re here for a reason — it’s our job to live our destiny and not wait for our eulogy.”