Your Part in #EveryChild Matters

As disasters and conflicts of all kinds seem to be swirling around us now more than ever, we feel that we have been wrapped in a warm blanket of love and support that has come not from your wallets, but from your hearts. As such, we wanted to do more today than just post a message of thanks. We wanted to share with you some of the good that you have shared with us.

Here are just a few of the reasons:

Andrew Brown: “I’m 10 years old and at the end of the year I donate some of my savings to a charity. I hope this helps someone.”

Mimi Hancock: “My son, John, was a volunteer with you several years ago, helping to coordinate relief efforts in Haiti in 2008. He has remained committed to your work, its power, reach and kindness. We applaud and thank you for all you do selflessly to help others in need here at home and around the world. In this divisive time in our country, it is especially inspiring to see you unite us with others through true care, help, and hard work THANK YOU!”

Sherri Seaman: “You give hope and inspiration to children everywhere, you should be very proud!”

Rebecca Bromark: “In memory of my grandmother, who had the biggest heart and who loved all people so much. I hope your organization can keep making lives better for more children, their grandparents and their families, around the globe.”

Greg Lande: “To help those less fortunate!”

Wilfred Yenko: “Thank you All Hands for reviving hope and joy to communities around the world.”

Jack Ferrebee: “Thank you David for your endless generosity!”

Sue Patterson: “I had a profoundly moving and meaningful experience volunteering for a week in October with All Hands in Baton Rouge, LA. I am very impressed with the dedication of the All Hands staff and volunteers, and with the simplicity of the All Hands organization-the singular focus. I believe in you!”

Teresa Regan: “We all need to start taking better care of one another. Everyone deserves hope.”

Marinel Valentini: “Thank you AHV for transforming into reality children’s dreams of living and studying in safe environments.”

Karen and David Mount: “I was fortunate enough to get an inside glimpse of All Hands when I volunteered after the Moore, OK tornado devastation. It is a very well run organization that reaches out to help those in need…both near and far…That is what our country is truly about.”

Curty Croisetiere: “Great cause! Great people! Great country!”

Joseph Dragone: “I am blessed with a great family and want to share my good fortune with others.”

Hillary Morton: “If you have it to give then it is only right to pay it forward.”

JJ Hepp: “#EveryChild matters!”

Jan and Beez Hazen: “There’s no better Team!  We know this because we’ve worked with Hands in the US and abroad.  Thanks, David, for your vision, leadership and continued contributions.”

With that, we add our voice to yours. Here’s to more light in the world, more help for the helpless, more light in the dark, and more hope for us all.

~ Erik Dyson

 

You did it. Once again,  you came through for us and those we serve, breaking the seemingly impossible $100,000 glass ceiling on Giving Tuesday with an amazing $102,322 in donations. This puts us at a grand total of $152,322 with David Campbell’s generous match. We are humbled and proud to know you and call you our friends. THANK YOU!

All Hands Volunteers Nepal Earthquake Response

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img_0623 Brian getting ready for a hard earned tea and doughnut break after spending the morning removing concrete forms.

For the better part of October, we spent our time volunteering with All Hands Volunteers Nepal Earthquake Response. We were stationed in Trishuli where we spent the month assisting with the construction of a new school for over five hundred children. Trishuli is a small city located in the rural Nuwakot district of Nepal, about a four hour bus ride from Kathmandu (granted the road is in tact — one fellow volunteer reported a 16 hour bus ride as a mudslide had taken out a portion of the road and the entire bus sat and waited until the road had been ‘repaired’). 

Although we didn’t know quite what was in store coming to work with All Hands Volunteers, we naturally held some expectations as we had undertaken quite a bit of research into the…

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Last Tuesday…

 

Last Tuesday my tea was hot and endless. I looked through my closet deciding which dress to wear, trying on a dozen shoes. I stood in my bathroom and took for granted the clean water than ran from the spigot, the toothpaste and makeup just another part of my everyday routine. My biggest dilemma was whether to drive, walk or bike to work. Today all of that has changed. My eyes and heart have seen a state of disaster.

The beautiful souls of Louisiana have endured a “1000 year flood.” There are no words to describe the sites on the ground. Think of yourself, the town you live in. Think of the houses that you drive past and admire. The houses that have held Thanksgiving dinners and birthday parties. Think of the houses that have welcomed home newborn babies, and deployed soldiers. Now imagine 90% of those homes flooded by swollen rivers. The coffee shop you go to in the mornings, under five feet of water. Your favorite lunch spot, the chairs are floating through broken windows, they’ll never reopen because for a small business owner the loss is too great.

Now imagine returning to your flood ravaged home a week after being rescued by a stranger in a boat. Your door is marked with a red spray painted X signaling that the home was searched for survivors, or for bodies. The smell is nauseating, but it doesn’t compare to what you’ll find inside. Your furniture has floated from room to room. Your grandmother’s china was smashed when the china cabinet bobbed around in the water and tipped over, your books, family photos, your clothes, your shoes, destroyed. Your car has been pushed several feet from where you parked it, and it is leaking brown putrid water. You look down the street to see hundreds of others wandering around their yards, sharing your fate.

Last Tuesday, I was a girl who worried over silly things. This Tuesday I am a girl who has seen the heartbreaking devastating impacts of a flood. I can’t turn away unchanged and you shouldn’t either. This is happening, it is real. PLEASE do what ever you can to help.

-Melissa Sheets

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“Let’s Give a Hand to All Hands, Ecuador” A Poem

By Rachel A. Vigil

I arrived on June 6th
and the time has flown
after three short weeks
I consider this a new home

I’ve never spent so many
nights in a tent
but hey, ain’t it great?
we don’t have to pay rent!

It takes me a while
to come out of my shell
the heat, a new country
I’m sure you could tell

And it’s true what they say
the first week can be rough
but by week two it seems
I began to adjust

Now I’m older than most
which shouldn’t much matter
except in recent years
Ive become older, and fatter!

Yet I know and have seen
that each day I grow stronger
much like our group here
as we stay involved longer

Water jugs I can carry
always lift with my knees
whereas at the beginning
I’d need some help — please??

My story is mine
but of course it’s yours too
did you ever even dream
you’d haul this much bamboo?

Only here it’s called cana
and it’s used everywhere
take a look at our table
and check out Sean’s chair!

You all got creative
in every which place
made structures, cana huts
that transform our base

But the best part of course
is the work that we do
no glamour, no glory
yet each day we start new

Committed to helping
those who need it the most
blessed by a beautiful location
on Ecuador’s coast

We joke and we laugh
as we get the job done
truly sweaty and stinky
but that’s part of the fun

We’re from different countries
a unique community we make
helping repair and rebuild
after a disastrous quake

Not just houses or buildings
that our efforts will touch
we reach the hearts and the lives
of those who lost so much

Ask anyone here
and I’m sure they believe
that it really is better
to give than receive

So to my new volunteer family
formed out here on the sands
keep building, keep giving
‘til I come back to All Hands!

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One Village’s Miracle

One Village’s Miracle in Fiji after Cyclone Winston.

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Fiji, for many of us, is a far away land of idyllic beaches, abundant beauty and flourishing rain forest. The perfect vacation spot. But for the villagers of Delakado, Fiji is home. The village consists of about 300 people. A blissful life where community spirit runs deep, where each and every home is open to all who pass through, where even the preparation of daily meals becomes a collective effort and a veritable feast.

The rumors of Cyclone Winston were rife for the Fijians. But nothing could have prepared them for the staggering force of the winds that came howling through on February 20, 2016. Delakado, Tailevu, lay nearly in the path of the eye of the storm ­ a blistering whirlwind of flying debris as everything around its people was swept up in its wake. Too weak to withstand the power of a category 5 cyclone, infrastructures entirely collapsed as homes came crumbling down. All but one.

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The entire village somehow managed to hide under the floorboards of one particular house. Although owned by one individual, it was actually used for village gathering events. Thus, it was built with a higher standard. As a last hope from the powerful Winston, the women, children, and elderly huddled together under the floorboards of the house. The strongest stood above and with all their might, held the walls up to thrust outward against the storm whilst the brunt of the wind tore the rest of the village down. They held up the walls until the storm subsided. Amazingly, no one was killed. It was a miraculous community effort that will pave the way for what comes next, as they pick up what little remains of their village and start over.

When our response team arrived on the scene, it didn’t take long to note the incredible local capacity in Delakado. And more importantly, the unshakable philosophy of a community determined to stand on its own two feet and rebuild itself in the face of adversity. A pre­-existing spirit of volunteerism, or as local Fijians so accurately describe it, “community comes first, the individual second”.

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In Fiji, any tension or disaster can be alleviated by a collaboration supported by extensive connectedness. In fact, this is the very same credo that fuels the members of All Hands Volunteers. A steadfast belief in the power of community ­ an extended family unit of sorts that allows no ­one to go unloved, unnoticed or uncared for.

As so vividly described by staff member, Gary Pitts, who stated, “The community have really come out to support the teams in the field. We have been welcomed with open arms.. we have seen volunteers from all parts of the social structure in the village, including the Village Headman who has worked right along our side”.

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No matter how much rubble and debris there is; or how shattered, torn, and dusty the task; the people of Delakado believe anything can be rebuilt if we’re all working together. This belief kept them alive as they huddled under one roof together amidst the cyclone and is,certainly, a belief that we’ve found is worth carrying out forever–thanks to the people of Delakado.

Thakur’s Story

 

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There is something quite unique about Thakur. Perhaps it’s his warm heart or those kind eyes we’ve all come to be so fond of. At 25 years old, already a responsible husband and father to his family, Thakur earns his living as a porter, commuting several hours from his home in Nuwakot to the inner cities of Nepal, carting heavy goods over great distances.

When Thakur set out to the city on the morning of April 25, 2015, he had no idea how his life was about to change and that he’d be suffering the loss of his baby daughter. As the 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Nepal, Thakur found himself running faster than ever before as he rushed home to reach his family.

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“During the earthquake, I didn’t know what was happening. I was scared and just started to run. I couldn’t find anywhere safe to escape to until I found a road and suddenly blacked out,” Thakur recalls.

When he finally came to, he ran for 2 hours until he reached his family and youngest daughter who was severely injured. He rushed her to the nearby hospital, only to find that she needed a surgery they couldn’t afford. In an urgent bid to save their daughter’s life, Thakur and his wife took out a private loan.

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However, after an agonizing 17 day wait in the hospital, their daughter sadly passed away the day before her surgery. She was 9 months old.

When All Hands Volunteers came to help clear the rocks and rubble, no­one quite anticipated the magnitude of the bond that would be created with Thakur and his family. Moved by their story and remarkable resilience in the face of such tragedy, it would have been difficult to not be equally transformed.

As noted by staff member Tim Hill:

“He opened his home and heart to me. He shared with me a story that I and many others could never fathom, a story of hardship and loss on an incomprehensible level. For someone who has lost so much, his love and honesty touched me in a way that will stay with me for the rest of my life”.

Each day, as the volunteers arrive on site, Thakur and his family await with a big warm welcome. Optimism is shared all around the site as volunteers rubble away and suddenly, a weight is lifted.

“All Hands Volunteers helped me when nobody else would.. I would have never been able to clear this rubble by myself. Because of the volunteers, I finally feel happy again.” said Thakur.

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Thakur’s wife smiles and we are once again reminded of the extraordinary fortitude of a nation that has lost so much ­ their warmth, generosity and unfailing optimism a lesson for us all.

 

Meet the Volunteers

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By: Tay and Jay

Working with All Hands Volunteers was like biting into a fruit you never knew existed, and wondering how you could have lived without tasting it for your entire life.

Taylor and I knew we wanted to travel abroad for an extended period of time, but it seemed almost gluttonous to just traipse across Asia with only ourselves in mind. So, we sought out to find some fulfilling volunteer opportunities. After applying to All Hands in June and not hearing anything for several months, we forgot about the organization and our trip planning was put on hold. Luckily All Hands emailed us in December and offered us two spots in the program, which made our decision to go to Asia seem a helluva lot more real. So with backpacks and plane tickets, we said goodbye to our families and friends and boarded a plane headed to Kathmandu.

From Nepal’s capital, we traveled five hours by bus (during this ride an elderly Nepali woman sat on my lap for roughly two hours and 30+ people sat on top of the vehicle) to Melamchi, the small city we would call home over the four following weeks. Our program was working to rebuild after the devastating earthquake that took place on April 25, 2015, claiming more than 8,000 lives in the Kathmandu valley. Measuring in with a 7.8 magnitude on the Richter scale, the earthquake was the moat damaging one to affect Nepal since 1934.

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Now that you have a bit of background on the project, you might be wondering what exactly did we do during the month we spent in Melamchi? And what does volunteering with All Hands entail?

I’ve broken down our daily work schedule so those considering donating their time to the program can gain a bit more insight into its practices:

6:15 am Wake up and clamber out of bed. If you’re sleeping in the Love Hub (with 50+ other volunteers) try to get up quietly so as not to disturb any late risers. Also, watch out for stray dogs in the Love Hub. There are always stray dogs in the Love Hub.

6:30 am Breakfast time! One awesome thing about All Hands is that meals are provided for you. Breakfast consists of your choice of one egg, two slices of toast, oatmeal, and one piece of fruit.

7:00 am Scurry to brush your teeth before the truck leaves. Then, cram into a covered truck bed with 12 of your newfound volunteer friends. I would say buckle up, because it will be a bumpy ride, but there are no seatbelts.

7:30-8:00 am Clutch onto the edge of your seat as your local driver ascends narrow dirt pathways and honks excessively at local pedestrians and drivers. Your car will be headed nearly straight up the side of a mountain.

8:00 am Grab whatever tools belong to your team and head to your worksite on the mountain.

8:15 am Get to work! You can sing “Hi ­Ho” if it boosts your productivity, but most work sites provide speakers so that you can jam out to something less Disney and more punk rock. There are several options when it comes to what type of work you’ll be doing:

Rubble: Clearing debris and fallen rock from sites where new homes will be built.

Foundations: Digging holes that will be filled with structure beams.

Structures: Erecting steel poles that will serve as the frame of the home.

Walls: Attaching wire mesh to structure beams that will prevent the home from collapsing inwards in the event of a future earthquake.

Roofs: Securing a roof to the newly built home.

Toilets: Digging septic tank holes, pouring concrete, and erecting miniature structures for a standalone bathroom.

Sherpas: Strapping supplies to your head, and delivering various items to worksites all over the mountain.

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A few sherpas moving cement rings that weigh in at over 200 lbs each.

9:45 am The project beneficiaries will bring you tea (“chia”) and you can shoot the shit with them as you try your darndest to imagine what it must be like to grow up with tons of farm animals on the side of a mountain in Nepal. Then it’s back to work!

11:30 am – 12:30 pm By this point you should be sweating. Luckily it’s lunchtime. Grab some dal bhat, search for a shady seat, and play with some baby goats if you’re feeling feisty. Everyone on the same task eats together and is fed by the beneficiaries. Make notes and compare with your fellow volunteers as to which house has the best grub, so you can choose your assignment accordingly for the next working day. And of course, take a moment to check out your surroundings before heading back to work.

12:30-­4:00 pm Power through the second half of the day and resist the urge to fall into a dal bhat food coma.

4:00-­4:30 pm Grab your gear and your team and head back to the truck for the descent into Melamchi.

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4:45 pm Make a mad dash for the shower. There is enough hot water for 3­4 people, and the other 55 will be screwed. Don’t think about other people’s feelings, think about how much you hate cold showers and haul ass to the nearest bathroom.

5:00 pm Smush into the common room for the daily mandatory meeting. Work site progress will be discussed as well as general project updates and announcements.

6:30 pm Dinner is served. It’s always a variation on a carb + cabbage + carrots + spicy sauce.

8:30 pm Chances are you’re tempted to read a book or socialize with the other volunteers, but in reality, you’re so tired that you fall asleep without brushing your teeth and wake up with chow mein breath. Sexy.

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There you have it, folks—a day in the life of an All Hands Volunteer.