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All Hands and Hearts

About

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! Join All Hands and Hearts as we work to rebuild communities affected by disasters. Our programs range from COVID-19 Relief work in LA, to rebuilding homes in Louisiana to rebuilding schools in The Bahamas and Mexico. Find out about our new and upcoming programs below.

Reviews

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Regina
8/10
Yes, I recommend this program

When I signed up with "All Hands and Hearts" to go to the Bahamas for 2 months, I knew we'd be building a school for young kiddos who haven't had access to education in over a year.
What I quickly realized, however, is that we would first be building our own little city inside our new jungle home.
During our week of quarantine on base, I watched my new teammates (many of whom had never touched a power tool) spending their days building benches, shade structures, and fun shelves for our little pods!
We have now moved over to the school and are hard at work digging trenches, bending rebar, and laying the foundation.
It's hard work, but it is the beginning of a new story for the young children who have been without a place to go for over a year.
I'm happy to be a part of that story ❤

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Come ready to work hard and play hard!
It will be hot... it will be exhausting... it will be frustrating at times... Keep an open mind and be ready to adapt.
Know this.... you will feel the difference you are making everyday!
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T
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

This is THE program to apply to for those looking to volunteer internationally with a top notch NGO. You will learn so much (about yourself, about construction, about disaster relief) and make a direct impact on a community that needs our help. Building a school from the ground up is no easy feat. The work is hard but the impact you are making is worth every drop off sweat. The staff of All Hands and Hearts goes above and beyond - they're the most exceptional part of the program. They're experts in their field, the best support system you'll ever experience, and they empower YOU to be the change.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
If you embark on this journey and get accepted - take the leap. 100%. It'll be the hardest thing you've ever done and the most important thing you've ever done.
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Mei
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I had a really positive experience on my DM12 Bahamas program. This was my first experience with All Hands and doing a humanitarian aid project. All Hands has created such a welcoming, positive environment and I feel like I am doing productive and meaningful work every day that results in tangible positive good. My two favorite aspects were learning how to use power tools and about Bahamian culture! One of the most challenging aspects personally was living in a communal environment. However, with every challenge, All Hands was very supportive and understanding.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Make sure you come mentally prepared to live and work in a post disaster area.
Default avatar
Mike
8/10
Yes, I recommend this program

With the impacts of COVID-19 everywhere, AHAH has strived to provide a unique experience among the chaos.

Approaching the halfway point through my 2 month program and again back in quarantine, the work completed in the past couple of weeks has been both rewarding and informative. From mixing concrete to learning new tools, AHAH has provided a first timer a disaster relief experience that definitely wants me to do more.

I'd be lying if I said the living conditions didn't take some adaptation. Learning to sleep around others and take cold showers is not for the faint of heart. However, the food and the people you meet are nothing short of amazing. The stories they have to tell only further your interest in what you're doing.

All in all, I'd recommend everyone interested in the disaster relief field to try it at least once.

What was the most surprising thing you saw or did?
Pictures don't do it justice when trying to understand the aftermath of a hurricane on a rural community.
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Jamie
10/10
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.

Programs

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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!