Story of Advocates Jeff Smith (68) and Fran Jocelyn (71) – Reisterstown, MD, USA
We found out about All Hands Volunteers through our niece, Aubrie Hornung, who was volunteering in Leogane, Haiti, after the 2010 earthquake. She had been there for several months and wanted someone from our family to come down and spend some time with her and see what she was up to. We don’t mind roughing it and enjoy hard work and volunteering. So we were the likely candidates.
We have a seasonal business and are free to travel in January every year. So that year, the 1 year anniversary of the earthquake, we were off to Haiti. After a few airplane rides, we met Aubrie at the airport and took off on a dizzying zig zag motorcycle ride through Port-au-Prince. A little hairy on the curves and hills as we were burdened with heavy backpacks full of work clothes and tools. A few bouncy bus rides and hours later we were greeted at the All Hands compound by smiling faces and big hugs and quickly became known as Aubrie’s Aunt and Uncle. That was the start of our relationship with All Hands Volunteers.
Upon arriving home from that trip we were asked by our 6 year old granddaughter’s teacher to do a slide show presentation for Jaden and her classmates. They were planning a fundraiser and chose to donate the money to All Hands. The kids made friendship pins (a safety pin filled with colourful beads) and sold them for a quarter each. Donning one of our Leogane All Hands t-shirts, Jaden worked the sales table along with her classmates. Prior to that the students had made posters and put them up in the school announcing the upcoming sale. They sent home flyers with all of the elementary school students so the parents would know why all of the kids needed to bring their quarters to school. At the end of the day, they had raised $475. That’s 1,900 friendship pins!
We explained to Jaden and her classmates how our matching funds would double their fundraising efforts to build new desks for the new schools that All Hands Volunteers were building in Haiti. Following up on that theme, the students filled pencil holder bags with pens, pencils, erasers, etc, and we had them taken to Leogane by another volunteer who was headed there a few weeks later.
It was after our experience in Haiti that we began to donate to All Hands on a monthly basis. It is a very modest amount since we are spread a little thin. But knowing that we are helping in a small way each month is rewarding in itself and a constant reminder of people around the world who are in dire need of help, especially after a disaster.
We also did another fundraiser online for All Hands, tapping into our friends and family, raising about $1,500 prior to volunteering in the Philippines in January 2016. Seeing the funds go into the materials for the schools being built there was very rewarding and fulfilling.
Each time we volunteer we come away with an added appreciation for all of the things we take for granted in our everyday lives. Our hearts fill up with the love expressed by the people from the communities we have worked in. We are rewarded in so many ways, especially knowing that perhaps we have made someone else’s life a little better. The smiling faces of the kids whose schools we have worked on are etched in our minds forever.
We will continue to donate to All Hands Volunteers so that we can always be a small part of the wonderful work that the staff and volunteers do in helping those in need all over the world. We look forward to when we can volunteer again and spend time working with the younger volunteers who have so much energy and commitment to the cause. They keep us feeling young! The amazing dedication of the All Hands staff at the worksites and in the office is truly inspiring and makes them a pleasure to work with. We’re in for life!