All Hands Volunteers is focused on “providing hands-on assistance to survivors of natural disasters around the world, with maximum impact and minimum bureaucracy.” There are several things that make this NGO unique. For starters, they provide housing and food for volunteers, so all you have to do is cover travel expenses. Since budgeting is such a huge problem for so many eager workers, providing these services means more people get to the scene of the disaster, and they get there fast.
Because All Hands Volunteers responds to natural disasters, many of the questions we often ask of our volunteer organizations are moot. Yes, there is a dire need. Yes, your work will be directly helping people in an immediate and important way. No, because the work is short-term relief, you will not be taking jobs from local people. No, the NGO is not misusing your money because you’re not giving them any.
Of course, natural disasters are one of the things we all fear most, but they are also great motivators for latent volunteers—people who are on the fence, or who aren’t sure where to go or what cause to champion. A disaster is fast, decisive, and leaves an obvious trail of suffering and devastation that inspires us to act. Plus, you won’t be anxious about the organization you’re working for. Alongside many other NGOs, All Hands mounted a response in Haiti after the earthquake.
According to Terry Ward, a voluntourist and travel writer profiled on the All Hands Volunteers website, her experience working in Haiti was very work-oriented, unlike other voluntours we’ve discussed. It wasn’t about sightseeing, it was about helping the victims of the disaster. Ward: “As a constantly wired travel writer, I hear the terms “voluntourism” and “volunteer vacation” everywhere these days. But after two weeks volunteering in Haiti… I can say that my volunteer experience was more about sweat and hard work than a vacation or traditional tourism.”
Katie Taibi from Bel Air, Maryland traveled to Haiti to work with All Hands Volunteers:
Like all NGOs, All Hands Volunteers has to make their financial portfolio available to the public. Their funding comes from individual donations and from organizations that want to support their work. While this type of funding does tend to get political, the politics are limited to the administration and don’t seem to affect the work they do. Natural disasters can happen anywhere. It would be difficult for political motivations to influence a tsunami or an earthquake. I guess I wouldn’t put anything past politicians. Still, barring a secret earthquake machine or volcano generator, All Hands Volunteers seems uniquely un-political, and that is uniquely appealing.