All Hands and Hearts


All Hands and Hearts – Smart Response efficiently and effectively addresses the immediate and long-term needs of communities impacted by natural disasters. By listening to local people, and deploying our unique model of engaging volunteers to enable direct impact, we rebuild safe, resilient schools, homes and other community infrastructure.

Through volunteer and community engagement, we aim to help families recover faster after natural disasters using our “smart response” strategy. By rebuilding in a disaster resilient way, we prepare them for future events and, through the process, strengthen both volunteers and communities.

Volunteer Applications are now open!

Volunteer applications for our DM12 Programs are now open! Start off the new year with All Hands and Hearts as we work to rebuild communities affected by disasters. Our programs range from the recovery of homes in Louisiana following Hurricanes Laura and Delta, to rebuilding schools and homes of those in The Bahamas after the devastation of Hurricane Dorian. Find out about our new and upcoming programs below.


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Yes, I recommend this program

This has been my first project and from originally signing up for 4 weeks i quickly changed that to stay for the full project.
Its hard to describe in words how amazing this program has been, not only the amazing work that is being completed but also the the whole experience in general. From the local community to the other volunteers on the program and of course the staff have all contributed to this being a truly amazing and life changing experience.
If you are able to attend a program i would highly recommend this project.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
To embrace the local community and their culture, truly amazing people.
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Yes, I recommend this program

All Hands and Hearts is an amazing organization that puts incredible effort to impact people in need after a natural disaster. The work is hard but the reward is bigger. Seeing the families, schoolchildren and locals being so happy about the work we are doing is the best I have ever experienced.

The work will include digging, working with power tools and wood, tying rebar and many other things. Everything will be taught to you so you don't have to worry about not knowing anything about construction work.

People you meet on this program are the most welcoming and kind people in the world. It feels like we are a huge family.

I would recommend everyone to join this program because it enables everyone (with and without experience) to contribute to an amazing cause.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Be open to anything, Including communal living - you will be surrounded by many (amazing) people, but it can also be very exhausting (but also a lot of fun :) )
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Yes, I recommend this program

This program was amazing. The impact AHAH is making is visible in the community. The School builds are amazing. Being able to offer English Lessons as well as playing basketball and soccer in the community. The overall impact AHAH made in Mozambique is incredible. You were able to work hand and hand with local masons exchanging skill sets and learning to build together as a team. The food was incredible and there were several night we spent playing trivia, having a mock tail night or movie night.

What was the most surprising thing you saw or did?
We had a severe storm, Base was flooding at 1 CM per minute. The staff ended up evacuating base and everyone left safely and calmly. Come to find out the storm effected over 30,000 people, destroyed 16 schools, 4 medical centers and was the second biggest rain fall since Cyclone Idai had hit a year previously.
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Yes, I recommend this program

I have volunteered with All Hands and Hearts (AHAH) in Puerto Rico twice since Hurricane Maria. The first time was for four months in 2018 and the second for two months in 2020. I have also volunteered with AHAH on several programs outside of the US. This organization provides a volunteer experience like no other. People of all nationalities and age groups come together to help a community recover from a natural disaster. No prior experience in disaster relief is required; you just need to show up and be willing to work. AHAH will teach you the skills necessary for the work you will do. AHAH has had a tremendous impact on the communities it has served in Puerto Rico.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Although there are a lot of opportunities to socialize with other volunteers and with the community, come knowing that you are expected to work hard.
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Yes, I recommend this program

My wife and I volunteered together for two weeks and then I came back for two months. The whole goal was to make a difference for the people of Puerto Rico and I feel that we accomplished that goal. But all the while we were volunteering, I felt like I gained from the experience more than what I put in to it. The other volunteers and staff are so amazing and inclusive that we are looking for more opportunities to volunteer with them in the future.

If you have the time (I know most people's time, as mine, is, important), this is one organization that you have to try. You will not regret it and will walk away with a sense of giving and a your heart enlarged.

What was the most surprising thing you saw or did?
The people are so amazing. I was on a team that was repairing windows and doors that were damaged in hurricane Maria. I had one homeowner give me a present for helping her. It really touched my heart and made my trip all the more memorable and fulfilling.


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Alumni Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with verified alumni.

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!

Staff Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with program leaders.

Jessica Thompson

Job Title
All Hands' Director of Volunteer Coordination
Jess Thompson is All Hands and Hearts' Training and Development Manager. She helps make sure staff and volunteers have the training they need to be efficient and effective in the field.

Did you volunteer abroad? If so, where and what inspired you to go?

I volunteered with All Hands for 16 months in Indonesia and Haiti before becoming staff. Like all of our volunteers, I was driven to help those who need support following the impact of a natural disaster

As with a large number of our alumni I signed up for just a couple of weeks but the work was so meaningful, my fellow volunteers so inspirational and the communities so welcoming I found I didn't want to leave. In the last five years I have now been to 17 projects, and a part of many more from my desk at home, and seeing communities being supported on the road to recovery is as satisfying as it was my first week on the ground as a volunteer.

What does the future hold for All Hands Volunteers - any exciting new programs to share?

As a disaster response organization it is impossible for us to predict where and when our next project will be. We have cleaned up after floods, rebuilt after typhoons, cleared debris after tornados and shoveled snow after the historical snowstorms that hit the Boston area this year.

If local mechanisms, agencies and individuals are overwhelmed by the scale of the damage All Hands will look at ways that volunteers can plug in and fill the gaps, whether this mean winterizing homes in Colorado or building boats in Samar. We're always looking for unmet needs in the communities we serve and how we can use the motivation and dedication of our volunteers to address them.

Do your volunteers require certain qualifications or go through a training process?

All Hands is committed to enabling motivated people to assist communities affected by natural disasters. We try to remove as many barriers to participation as possible so that our volunteer population is as diverse and innovative as possible.

We do not require our volunteers to have any special skills or previous experience, and there is no minimum or maximum amount of time you must sign up for. If you have the time and ability to travel to the location of our of our projects, and we have space, you're in! Our Team Leaders will share their expertise with you, making sure you have all the information and techniques you need to have a positive and productive time in the field.

What is the level of cultural immersion your volunteers receive?

All of our projects involve lots of interaction with the local community. We welcome local residents as volunteers, and many projects hire a large local workforce to help us with highly skilled tasks such as translation and construction.

You'll also work side by side with the homeowners and beneficiaries you're assisting, clearing basements of debris, building houses, cutting down and removing fallen trees and so on. Outside of the workday, you are free to explore the area as much as you'd like, eating in mom and pop restaurants, riding local transport and getting roped into the local sport of choice - your skill level is irrelevant!