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.
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 (AHV). I bookmarked the website. When AHV launched its 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 AHV 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 AHV’s 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 two and a half years since my first AHV project. All Hands Volunteers has made it possible for me to volunteer around the world on 14 different projects to address the needs of areas struck by tornadoes, floods, 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 AHV determined that it was good enough. They made it possible for me to make a difference. I am thankful.
Review from #MyGivingStory
My experience with All Hands was something that I would never expect. I came just for two weeks and ended up staying for 3 months. I was concern about the work but I realized that here everyone has a space to contribute and help no matter your age, skills or strength. I learnt so much about the Yolanda and how it affected the community (even years latter). The organization show us in a very clearly way what happened, what they are doing and how us, as volunteers, can help. Definitely one of the best experiences in my entire life!
Been with All Hands Volunteers for over a year now and have not regretted it one bit! I arrived in the Philippines in October 2014 to help with the recovery and rebuild of communities devastated by Super Typhoon Yolanda, which hit Tacloban City in November 2013. The hard working days and the buckets of sweat were heavily rewarded with smiles from the community members and the local workers we worked alongside with for months. I have so many memories I will cherish forever. I acquired a lot of new skills as a volunteer and have matured as a person. Thank you AHV for the amazing experience!
When the Philippines were hit by Yolanda, I knew I needed to go and help by joining an iNGO. I came across AHV and decided that, after reading the organization's history, this is the NGO I want to volunteer with. I went to Project Leyte twice, volunteered at project Nepal and project Detroit. AHV is now my chosen NGO - it is not just an NGO, it is a family of like-minded, hard working and fun loving people. It is the people that make this organization what it is - people with such an incredible amount of creativity, energy, enthusiasm, community spirit and love for what they are doing. But it is also the AHV leadership, from David Campbell to board members who are not afraid to get down and dirty on location to AHV program/project managers that communicates and encourages volunteers and staff to take charge of their own projects and fund raising efforts. All in all, it is an organization that provides volunteers with learning and career opportunities within and outside the organization.
When I read about All Hands Volunteers and the work they do i was very impressed. I applied for 3 months and they were the most satisfying 3 months of my life so far. I met people from all around the world with different life experiences to share. I did work that i didn't even know i was capable of doing. Working on site was pretty amazing, it's really cool to be able to see the impact of all the hard work. I personally like the idea of using physical strength to build things that will help stabilize the lives of those in need, and in the end of the day you will get to see the progress. Another thing that i liked was that the organization is run by considerate people who understand that every individual has different strengths and abilities, and so they don't pressure any volunteer to be like another. I volunteered on Project Leyte in the Philippines and had a great time. Everyone was friendly, they taught me how to do things on site since i had no previous experience with this kind of work. The project seemed to be running smoothly and was very organised. When i got a chance to base manage i saw all the things that were happening in the background. How hard everyone was working to ensure maximum amount of work was being done while making sure that volunteers were taken care of. The staff worked very hard, sometimes till very late and their love for the project was so visible it was amazing. Another thing i liked was that they were very transparent about things like expenses and donations. The fundraisers were always innovative and fun! I loved the way the organization had a great relationship with the local community, this helps volunteers have a more cultural experience. I was also impressed with the living conditions and the fact that we had security, helped me feel a lot safer since i was 19 when i volunteered and it was my first time travelling alone.
All in all... I think AHV is a great organization. The work they do is amazing and the organization is full of wonderful people who will help make for a great experience. Volunteering helps one have a different perspective on life and helps a person grow.
I am hoping to volunteer with All Hands Volunteers again!
Great mission with devoted workers and low overhead administrative costs. Many volunteers sign up for extension of service time and return for multiple projects. At times bare boned but tries to keep everyone in the loop as far as function and spending; ie totally transparent.
After the April 2015 Earthquake in Nepal, I got hit by this urge to go and help with relief and rebuild as a volunteer. I reviewed between 6 or 7 different organisations and finally decided to go with All Hands Volunteers. The financial transparency and professionalism of the organisation is remarkable, the staff are fun loving yet fully focused and the project work they do for affected communities surpassed my expectations. The living is community based and working conditions are tough - but the cheerful, hardworking, good hearted and happy people this organisation attracts - makes up for all the sweat and grime shed on the different work sites. I did just three weeks in Nepal and just couldn't wait to go back on another project and so went to Philippines for another two weeks in a span of 3 months. It wont be long before I return to volunteer on another project with AHV. They've kinda got me addicted.....ha ha.
I volunteered with all hands for a month thinking it would be a one time thing. I was very wrong. I was blown away by the organization, the work they do, and the people I volunteered with. It's amazing what they do with so little, how they change communities far beyond just building shelter, and bringing together people who really care. I scrapped all of my summer plans and now am on my third project with all hands this year.