Full Circle

Check out this inspiring #ShareTheGood message from Sabine Thompson in Montaigu France!

“People helped my family when I was younger, and I’m now in a position to help others. Life comes full circle. Like many, I’ve experienced hardship and painful episodes of loss over the years, but volunteering has always put things in perspective for me. Such is the beauty of giving: the realization that in the end, the intangibles one receives go way beyond what one gives.” – Sabine Thompson
Read her full story here and #ShareTheGood.

Like many of the people I now support when I volunteer, I come from humble beginnings.  From early childhood to my late teens, my limited wardrobe consisted of either donations from charities or clothes that my mother, who had left her home country of Vietnam during the war, would sew for me.  I learned very early on to find joy in the simple things in life and have always believed, maybe naively so, that people are intrinsically good.

It is those humble beginnings that paved the way for my passion for volunteering.  People have helped me and my family when I was younger, and I am now in a position to help others.  Life comes full circle.  Like many, I’ve experienced hardship and painful episodes of loss over the years, but volunteering has always put things in perspective for me.  Such is the beauty of giving: the realization that in the end, the intangibles one receives go way beyond what one gives.

I never had the flexibility to take a year off to travel or to join projects for months on end like some of my fellow volunteers.  I had to start working as soon as I graduated from school, but I held on to the idea of giving back, and when there is a will there is a way!  I recently celebrated 20 years of volunteering activities around the world, from orphanage visits to tutoring of underprivileged children, disaster relief, or work in slum areas and refugee camps.

While helping out in Japan after the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster of March 2011, a friend told me about an organization called All Hands Volunteers.  I bookmarked the website.  When they launched their response to Superstorm Sandy I expressed my interest and soon received an e-mail welcoming me to Project Long Island.  I first joined the project in March 2013 and volunteered with All Hands in New York on a total of nine different occasions that year alone.

The camaraderie with fellow volunteers coming from all walks of life but with a similar desire to help was instant and infectious.  Logistics were made easy, allowing me to focus my limited time off work on helping rather than untangling administrative details.  I had no technical knowledge but the projects were structured and I was provided with the guidance, safety measures, procedures and tools I needed.  I witnessed first-hand the long-term impact of All Hands Volunteers’ work as several disaster response projects I joined turned into rebuild activities – in New York specifically, I was given a chance to further the response work I had started in early 2013 and help rebuild homes affected by Superstorm Sandy in Long Island in late 2013, Staten Island in 2014 and Brooklyn in 2015.

It has been four years since my first AHV project. All Hands Volunteers has made it possible for me to volunteer around the world on 18 different projects to address the needs of areas struck by tornadoes, floods, hurricanes, typhoons and earthquakes.   I’ve learned a lot, made lifetime friends, and still receive occasional updates from survivors I’ve assisted.

I do not have the energy of a 20-year-old; I do not have much free time beyond weekends and vacation days; I do not have the technical know-how of a construction worker or any specialized skills outside of my office desk work; I do not have big muscles; but I have heart and a strong desire to help, and All Hands Volunteers determined that it was good enough.  I am thankful.

 

IN FOR LIFE – APRIL 2017

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.

Copy of img_0610-8Each 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!

Jeff & Fran_Class and Teacher

From the Ashes of Disaster – Trinity Rose

Trinity Rose is a 36 year old woman who has lived in Louisiana her whole life.

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Since her parents died, Trinity has pretty much kept to herself, running an eBay store and dog kennel from her mobile home. But when the floods hit Denham Springs last August, everything changed. She was sitting in her house with her boyfriend Randy when the river near her home crested, letting raging rapids loose on her home. As Trinity looked around, she remembers praying that the water would stop rising but watched helplessly as it rose higher and higher.

Trinity also remembers realizing that the water was not going to stop and recalls how suddenly her prayers changed. She was overcome by a moment of incredible peace amidst the chaos, an almost palpable assurance that this was supposed to happen and that all was going to be OK.

The following moments were a blur of commotion as Randy diverted Trinity’s attention back to the immediate danger and they set about trying to flag a rescue boat. Trinity recalls trying to reach her backyard to save her dogs but that by stopping her, Randy’s quick thinking actually saved her life.

Climbing onto the roof, they were finally able to get hold of a rescue boat. As they climbed on and the boat pulled away, Trinity held on to her door knob with all her might, desperate to prevent her beloved possessions from floating away. Amidst the chaos of that one moment, that was all that really mattered – that her lifelong memories should still be in the house on her return, whatever their condition. As the boat pulled away, she held on to that door as if her life depended on it, and with Randy holding on to her, finally the door closed.

With nowhere else to go and no family to fall back on, Trinity spent the next five months living in a tent in front of her ruined home.  She had no insurance and was denied assistance by FEMA. Her car was ruined in the floods so she had no form of transportation. Worse still, people from other less impacted neighborhoods kept driving by her property and slowing down as they saw people were living in a tent.  Trinity felt like she was on display and found herself feeling bitter, scared and worst of all, completely forgotten by the world.

Then one day, she heard about All Hands Volunteers.  Trinity admits to being a little skeptical at first – who turns up for free, with no strings attached, to throw themselves into the task of gutting a stranger’s flood infested house? It sounded far too good to be true.

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But when the team arrived, something changed for Trinity.  She describes it like this:

“I was experiencing a depression that I don’t even have the words to describe. I would just sit there in my front yard looking at my house and there was no hope. I’d already exhausted avenues that I thought would offer assistance.  I don’t have family. I don’t have anything. But when a group shows up and shows they care about you. That was the amazing thing that changed everything.”

“All Hands people are like shining diamonds. And they come together for the common purpose…it’s the sheer magic of it that is amazing to me.  You can’t buy that in life. And without having this horrible tragedy, I never would have been able to experience that.”

Trinity so beautifully articulates a common theme that we hear again and again across disasters of every kind in every corner of the world. It’s a perspective that seems only accessible to those who find themselves in the midst of extreme suffering. Time and time again, we see people who have lost everything speaking simultaneously of the heartache and pain of loss and a keen awareness of the “tender mercies” they experienced at the hands of generous neighbors, family, friends and the world at large.

As Trinity describes it, “to have your entire existence shaken up changes your perspective in a way that would not be possible outside of a tragedy. Tragedies have gifts that they give people if you’re only open enough to receive them.  The flood took everything I had. But I’m a better person now than I ever was before the flood.”

To us who show up with shovels and gloves, the powerful energy of people like Trinity who somehow manage to see joy and blessings even as they stand in the ashes of their lives sparks something new in us too. I think it’s called Hope.  Hope that tomorrow will be better than today. Hope that our own hardships are not as bad as they seem. And Hope that maybe, just maybe, there’s a whole lot more Good in the world than we thought.

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#RebuildingHope

 

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

Parnavores

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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