Why did you choose this program?
I've worked with All Hands and Hearts twice now. The first time I volunteered in St. Thomas, they were offering free flights for people able to stay for 2+ weeks. I have generous vacation time, so I decided to go for it!
I had such an amazing experience in the St. Thomas program that I decided to sign up for their Puerto Rico program and had another fantastic experience. I can't wait to volunteer with them again and I hope to spend longer than a week.
What did your program provider (or university) assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?
For the St. Thomas trip in 2019, they booked my airfare and had accommodations set up on their base, where they provided meals, transportation to work sites, and sleeping quarters. My responsibility was to get from the airport to and from their base and cover meals on the weekends.
This most recent trip to Puerto Rico, I was responsible for my airfare, transportation to and from the base, and weekend meals. They took care of the rest.
Neither of these trips required a Visa as they're both US territories.
What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?
Once All Hands and Hearts has confirmed your volunteer dates, they send you a packet of information with everything you need to know: what to pack, transportation options, the type of work you'll be doing, etc. It's incredibly informative and in line with what to expect when you arrive on base.
After the St. Thomas trip, I orchestrated a group trip to volunteer with All Hands and Hearts through a social volunteer organization I work with called One Brick. We traveled with a group of ten and everyone told me they had a great experience and would volunteer with All Hands and Hearts again - even without the group.
What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?
For the two programs I have worked on, workdays are Monday to Friday from 8 am-4 pm. All Hands and Hearts operate multiple worksites at once all in various stages of completion.
In St. Thomas, I did a lot of interior and exterior painting and installing doorknobs. For Puerto Rico, we did mold remediation and roofing work. The site supervisors and team leaders are knowledgable and do not make you do any work you're uncomfortable with doing.
After work, there is a base-wide debrief meeting at 5 pm where we go over successes, work for the next day, program updates, fundraising updates, etc. Dinner is served between 5:30-6 pm and then people mostly hang out on base. Both locations had a curfew.
Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?
I was pretty nervous about sharing a room with 10-20 people because we're also spending the day together at the worksite, but there are so many people on base to hang out with and if you need your space and are feeling burnt out, people give you plenty of space.
I know some people are concerned that they do not know enough about construction or home repair to help. Since All Hands and Hearts has different types of projects going on, there is something for everyone. Don't let that stop you!