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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.

Reviews

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Denise
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I had a great experience

I have volunteered with All Hands and Hearts in other places and can say that going to Louisiana was one of my better experiences. The accommodation is communal. However, the facility is clean, spacious, has great showers, a place to cook, and is comfortable. The staff on the program are great. They ensure that volunteers are taking care of. They also provide activities for volunteers to do. The volunteers are provided food 5 days a week which is great. The staff will take you to the store if you need grocery items. If you would like to go somewhere on the weekends, there is a way to get around. If the staff are available, they will take you or you can get a Lyft. I really enjoyed my time here and especially love the work they are doing on homes.

What was the most nerve-racking moment and how did you overcome it?
At this program, they are rebuilding homes that were affected by the hurricane. So, there are many tools that I had to learn how to use. One of the tools was a circular saw. I really didn't want to use any type of saw since my friend had recently cut off his finger using a saw. Needless to say, I was scared. The staff member was patient and demonstrated how to use the saw. Afterwards, the staff member had me use the saw while guiding me through the process. I was very relieved afterwards that I overcame my fear.
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Anthony
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Absolutely great experience

I have volunteered with All Hands previously and had great experiences but I have to say that this was the best staff so far. The staff are personable, helpful, knowledgeable, and overall great people. I miss them so much!

During my time in Louisiana I felt that I helped out, contributed, and learned new skills, but also met amazing people. Only if you are an amazing person who wants to volunteer for the right reasons (because I am feeling very protective of this organization and of these people) run, don’t walk, and pull your voluntrigger.

If you did this all over again, what's one thing you would change?
I would have planned to stay longer. I wish I was still there honestly.
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Joél
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

A Wonderful Way to Meet Wonderful People

I have been numerous All Hands and Hearts programs and each time is a life-changing experience. The ability to help people in need, while being surrounded by the best people from around the world, is why I keep coming back to these programs. The most fulfilling programs for me are the ones where you get to meet and work alongside the people affected by the disaster. It's a powerful experience to join with the community and help them rebuild their lives.

I can't wait to get back out to another program now that I'm vaccinated!

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Alexander
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

DM12 Bahamas

This has definitely been one of the highlights of the year! One of the best decisions I’ve made! It’s truly amazing to be surrounded with like minded people who share a passion of volunteer service. By interacting with the local community, you really get a true sense of the work your doing and the immediate impact it’s having on the people. The program not only challenges you but provides opportunities for constant learning and growing outside of your comfort zone. A little work, a little play and a little fun make for a great experience! Highly recommended!

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Valeria
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Amazing

All hands projects have giving me a lot of knlowledge and fun. I love hands on projects in construction and with all hands we do all the time. The work is hard but is amazing to know that all my effort is for the kids that really need the help! All hands projects have giving me a lot of knlowledge and fun. I love hands on projects in construction and with all hands we do all the time. The work is hard but is amazing to know that all my effort is for the kids that really need the help! amazing!!!

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Find time for yourself while live on base and work hard on site

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.
Director of Volunteer Coordination

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!