Nepal Earthquake - One Year Later

How ALL HANDS VOLUNTEERS, a U.S.- based non-profit is disrupting the international natural disaster aid model

The Good For Nothing People? Not exactly. More like people who do good, for nothing. Otherwise known as the motivated masses who feel compelled to act when tragedy strikes. In a natural disaster situation, they are called SUVs: spontaneous, unaffiliated, volunteers. Right now they are mobilizing to assist Ecuador after a huge earthquake flattened villages and left nearly 600 people dead. The conventional wisdom is that managing people who arrive on scene with their good intentions ends up creating a second disaster. Effective emergency management relies on a network of experienced professionals to ensure a coordinated and well-informed response effort. Individuals who work outside of this system are often perceived as a nuisance and a liability, causing more harm than good. Generally speaking, the public has gotten the message to send money and not show up. Just look at the outpouring of funds that were raised for Haiti and Nepal. The undeniable truth, however, is that spontaneous volunteers will always seek ways to assist for a wide range of reasons, irrespective of the voices who warn them otherwise. And there is tremendous value to their time. According to Independent Sector, a network of organizations, foundations and corporations, the value of volunteers’ time hit a record high in 2015, an estimated $23.56 per hour nationwide which is valued at roughly $188 billion.

David Campbell was one of those spontaneous volunteers who travelled to Thailand after the 2004 Tsunami, determined to help, armed with cash he collected from friends and a 40-year career in high tech. What grew out of David’s experience is All Hands Volunteers, a U.S.-based nonprofit organization that provides a unique outlet for SUVs to engage directly in disaster relief in the U.S. and abroad. All Hands Volunteers disrupts the universal disaster response status quo by welcoming anyone, irrespective of gender, faith, age or qualifications. All Hands Volunteers provides on-site training by experienced staff, careful oversight and direction, and the logistical support necessary to transform good intentions into positive impact. Pay your way to the project site and All Hands Volunteers will put you up, feed you and put you to work. The numbers over the last 11 years: 35,000 volunteers from 108 different countries assisting after 64 natural disasters.

April 25th is the one year mark since the Nepal earthquakes hit, killing more than nine thousand people and leaving large parts of the country in ruins. The humanitarian crisis continues. All Hands remains on-site: demolishing unsafe buildings, carting away rubble, rebuilding homes and schools, and providing training to local residents. Their approach is to listen, learn, live, and work within communities. They also partner with other nonprofits that can attest that a multi-skilled, energetic and compassionate labor force brings a profound impact in post-disaster scenarios where there is no greater resource than capable hands.

The challenges in Nepal are vast: poverty, energy shortages, high food prices, and governmental inaction. Nepal no longer grabs headlines but desperately needs help with the ongoing recovery process. All Hands is raising more funds for the next phase: building schools designed to last. So, yes, donations are still needed, for a long time to come. And they are needed for the citizens of Ecuador. But for those watching events unfold, who are determined to provide hands-on help, there is a place for you, too.