Did you volunteer abroad? If so, where and what inspired you to go?
Jess: I volunteered with All Hands for 16 months in Indonesia and Haiti before becoming staff. Like all of our volunteers I was driven to help those who need support following the impact of a natural disaster.
As with a large number of our alumni I signed up for just a couple of weeks but the work was so meaningful, my fellow volunteers so inspirational and the communities so welcoming I found I didn't want to leave. In the last five years I have now been to 17 projects, and a part of many more from my desk at home, and seeing communities being supported on the road to recovery is as satisfying as it was my first week on the ground as a volunteer.
What does the future hold for All Hands Volunteers - any exciting new programs to share?
Jess: As a disaster response organization it is impossible for us to predict where and when our next project will be. We have cleaned up after floods, rebuilt after typhoons, cleared debris after tornados and shoveled snow after the historical snowstorms that hit the Boston area this year.
If local mechanisms, agencies and individuals are overwhelmed by the scale of the damage All Hands will look at ways that volunteers can plug in and fill the gaps, whether this mean winterizing homes in Colorado or building boats in Samar. We're always looking for unmet needs in the communities we serve and how we can use the motivation and dedication of our volunteers to address them.
Do your volunteers require certain qualifications or go through a training process?
Jess: All Hands is committed to enabling motivated people to assist communities affected by natural disasters. We try to remove as many barriers to participation as possible so that our volunteer population is as diverse and innovative as possible.
We do not require our volunteers to have any special skills or previous experience, and there is no minimum or maximum amount of time you must sign up for. If you have the time and ability to travel to the location of our of our projects, and we have space, you're in! Our Team Leaders will share their expertise with you, making sure you have all the information and techniques you need to have a positive and productive time in the field.
What is the level of cultural immersion your volunteers receive?
Jess: All of our projects involve lots of interaction with the local community. We welcome local residents as volunteers, and many projects hire a large local workforce to help us with highly skilled tasks such as translation and construction.
You'll also work side by side with the homeowners and beneficiaries you're assisting, clearing basements of debris, building houses, cutting down and removing fallen tress and so on. Outside of the work day you are free explore the area as much as you'd like, eating in mom and pop restaurants, riding local transport and getting roped into the local sport of choice - your skill level is irrelevant!