All Hands and Hearts
Building disaster resilient communities
Volunteers Helping to Rebuild a Million Lives Impacted by Natural Disasters
The largest natural disaster in modern history occurred on December 26, 2004 as a 9.1 magnitude earthquake struck off the western coast of northern Sumatra, giving rise to the Great Indian Ocean Tsunami. Communities along the surrounding coasts of the Indian Ocean were devastated with more than 250,000 people killed in 14 countries.
At the time, David Campbell, a technology executive and philanthropist, took immediate action, collecting donations from friends and colleagues before traveling to Thailand to participate in relief efforts. The overwhelming response of people who showed up to help taught David a new phrase, “I learned about an alternate meaning for SUV—‘Spontaneous Unaffiliated Volunteers’—people who wanted to do something more but there was no place for them to go. Since we provided an opportunity to help, they came.” Realizing the critical need to connect volunteers willing to help and disaster sites who needed that help, he founded the non-profit All Hands Volunteers. The organization applied a unique structured response model to disaster situations. Its model combines the rapid deployment of volunteers to disaster zones worldwide with donation support and long-term planning until the community stabilizes.
Entrepreneur and philanthropist Petra Nemcova experienced the Tsunami first-hand while in Khao Lak, Thailand where she suffered serious internal injuries and a broken pelvis after clinging to a palm tree for eight hours before being rescued. The next year, inspired by her experience, Nemcova founded the Happy Hearts Fund, which focused on rebuilding and renewing schools affected by natural disasters. For Nemcova, the organization is not just rebuilding homes, schools, and other infrastructure—it’s rebuilding lives. “We always encourage the volunteers to be there if a homeowner wants to talk. For the families who have suffered, we are providing physical rebuilding, but beyond that, we are providing hope and emotional healing and strength to go on.”
David Campbell and Petra Nemcova first met in 2007, when both All Hands Volunteers and Happy Hearts Fund were independently responding to relief efforts for the Peru earthquake. The two organizations joined forces in 2015 for the Nepal Earthquake Recovery Program. As a team, they focused on rebuilding classrooms and facilities and installing systems for safe drinking water. The collaborative effort showed that the two complementary nonprofits make a greater impact together, so they officially merged in 2017 becoming All Hands and Hearts (AHAH).
Based in Mattaposett, Massachusetts, AHAH is an organization committed to effectively and efficiently addressing the immediate and long-term needs of communities impacted by natural disasters. They arrive early to assist with response efforts and stay late to rebuild schools and homes in a disaster-resilient way. Their community assistance projects around the world include donations and volunteer efforts in over 100 different disaster programs so far, and currently active in places like Florida (Hurricane Michael Response) and, Mexico (Earthquake Recovery, among others)
AHAH is different from other aid groups because it is volunteer-powered and engages with local communities affected by natural disasters to build disaster-resilient infrastructure. It’s the volunteers that make the work a reality. They are not required to have any set of skills or experience in the world of disaster relief; expert staff train them on the job. Volunteers only need enthusiasm, dedication, and their time—for as long of a period as they wish to give. AHAH believes giving back should have no limitations. Along with volunteers, experienced and qualified staff members help train local masons and tradespeople in resilient building techniques, empowering community members to best serve the communities in which they live.
The programs are based on experience and understanding that recovery after a natural disaster takes years. Unfortunately, media attention and the donations generated disappear in a few months. Nearly 70-80% of donations occur within the first two months after a disaster while only 5% of all giving is allocated to long-term building and sustained recovery; AHAH helps to bridge that gap.
Supported by corporate partner donors as well as individuals, the nonprofit has consistently received the highest four-star rating from Charity Navigator in large part because the organization maximizes its donations towards its programs—96 cents of every dollar is donated. In addition to donations, AHAH has recruited over 58,000 volunteers from over 144 different nationalities who have collectively worked over a million hours in 18 countries to help rebuild for people in need.
AllHandsAndHearts.org is the online hub that connects the organization’s global teams, donors, and volunteers from different regions and nationalities as they rally to serve in disaster areas around the world. The site allows them to show their mission in action through the positive impact made on communities, to recruit and sign up volunteers for programs, to receive online donations, to offer resources for fundraising, and other essential functionalities. David Campbell states that the .ORG domain is critical to their identify as a non-profit: “It conveys a sense of mission, purpose, and has drawn people in to understand more about our unique and powerful model—volunteer-powered disaster relief,” he explains. “We help people help people.” And judging by their success, AHAH helps people do just that.
We serve the immediate and long-term needs of communities impacted by natural disasters.
- 144 Volunteer Nationalities
- 106 Disaster Programs
- 18 Countries Served
- 257 Schools Completed
- Helping send over 109,000 Children Back to School