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May 8, 2020

Farewell, Puerto Rico

All Hands and Hearts arrived in Puerto Rico in December 2017, initially starting damage assessments in Yabucoa where the category 4 storm made landfall. In the following weeks, our team quickly realized the full and devastating impact that rocked the island, leaving families to deal with flooding and storm damage they never imagined possible. Many of these families lived with blue tarps on their leaking roofs for months before they received the help they needed to recover - assistance that you helped make possible. It has been an absolute privilege to serve these communities, and I am so proud to share with you today our final program report.  

We launched our first programs in Yabucoa and Barranquitas in mid-January 2018, with the goal of ensuring families had waterproof, hurricane-resistant roofs to weather any future storms. In addition, we installed external doors and windows and sanitized homes from mold. Shortly after, we launched a satellite program in Toa Baja. With the assistance of our senior technical advisor, we expanded our scope of work to include repairing and rebuilding corrugated galvanized iron roofs, specifically designed to withstand future disasters. Thanks to the help of 3,536 volunteers, we completed 1,705 jobs across all programs and reached 12 municipalities. The nature of our work can sometimes make it difficult to process the magnitude of our impact. Together we have worked 249,383 hours and impacted 7,841 people. Take a moment and read that again; then remind yourself: Together, we have accomplished something extraordinary!

Beginning in early 2020, numerous earthquakes rattled the island, and thousands of aftershocks led to more damage and heartbreak. The string of powerful earthquakes forced thousands outside — many who continue to live in inhumane conditions. After our team conducted a thorough island-wide assessment, we opened a satellite site to partner with World Central Kitchen in providing meals to affected communities. Together, we served more than 294,500 meals. Additionally, we supported a grassroots volunteer group, Brigada de Todxs, in constructing sleeping cots for those living in evacuation shelters.

Unfortunately, the global coronavirus pandemic accelerated our planned March 31st end date by a couple of weeks. By early March it became clear that in order to keep all our people safe - staff, volunteers, and beneficiaries - we would have to suspend global operations. This abrupt departure was emotionally wrenching for the team, which, for the past 2+ years, had poured themselves into making homes safer and public spaces welcoming and functional again. Given the disruption COVID is causing around the world, we are reassured in the knowledge that the communities we leave behind are stronger because we helped build resilience into structures and hope within people. 

The end of a program is something we all anticipated, yet it still catches us by surprise. A part of our hearts will forever remain in Puerto Rico - our work on the island has transformed what we as an organization thought was possible. Today there are 605 homes that no longer need blue tarps, thanks to the work we accomplished together! 

From the entire team at All Hands and Hearts, thank you 

May 7, 2020

A quick update regarding our operations...

Shree Manakamana Basic School (before and after)
Shree Manakamana Basic School (before and after)

Greetings friends and supporters of our Nepal Relief Program,

This past March, we celebrated the completion of our Makwanpur Program and the Shree Manakamana Basic School. The team completed an impressive scope of work, making sure the school could comfortably and safely accommodate the 140 students that attend it. We also continued to provide Female Mason Training on both programs operating this season. To date, 25 women have successfully completed this capacity building training course, during which they learn about disaster resilient building techniques that they can share with their larger communities.

This spring, we had planned to complete three brand new schools prior to monsoon season (which typically starts in mid-June). Today, I have an update regarding the way COVID-19 has affected our operations around the world, and what this means for our team in Nepal. Our top priority is and will continue to be the health, safety, and well-being of our staff, volunteers and the communities we serve. For this reason, effective March 12th, All Hands and Hearts temporarily suspended all operations, withdrawing over 400 staff and volunteers from seven program locations in the US and around the world in 72 hours. After careful consideration, our leadership team has now determined that it is unlikely we will be able to restart our volunteer-driven operations before September 2020. However, our commitments to beneficiary communities remain resolute. As of September 1, we expect to begin reopening programs on a case-by-case basis, based on local government guidelines and the advice of medical experts.

We know that the poor and vulnerable populations we serve are already feeling a disproportionate impact from COVID-19. Stay-at-home orders, closed schools, layoffs, and medical shortages land differently on those sheltering in a damaged home, in a community without internet or one without a clinic, or for those already struggling to afford basic necessities. Our goal now is to sustain our model and prepare to meet the challenges that COVID is already injecting into the disaster recovery landscape, so we can serve our mission over the long haul.

We are incredibly eager to return to the field and continue the important work we started in Nepal. There is a critical need to make our schools safe so children can relocate from temporary classrooms into the main buildings and have appropriate shelter. We are monitoring local restrictions to determine if, and when, local staff can return to the Thakureshor and Janakalyan schools to complete construction and finalize the buildings. If staff can’t continue this work by May 15, the sites will stay closed until the monsoon season recedes in October.

Thank you for following our progress, and for your ongoing support! We look forward to updating you again soon.

One of our mason trainees
One of our mason trainees
May 7, 2020

A quick update regarding our operations...

A hurricane damaged home in Jackson County
A hurricane damaged home in Jackson County

Greetings Friends,

This month marks the passing of more than 1.5 years since Hurricane Michael made landfall on the Northwest Florida coast, leaving behind a path of devastation from which communities are still working to recover. In our last report, we were excited to share that a new Hurricane Michael Relief program was set to open this past April. Today, I have additional updates to share with you related to this, and an update regarding our operations overall in light of COVID-19.

With respect to the global pandemic, our top priority is and will continue to be the health, safety, and well-being of our staff, volunteers and the communities we serve. For this reason, effective March 12th, All Hands and Hearts temporarily suspended all operations, withdrawing over 400 staff and volunteers from seven program locations in the US and around the world in 72 hours. After careful consideration, our leadership team has now determined that it is unlikely we will be able to restart our volunteer-driven operations before September 2020. However, our commitments to beneficiary communities remain resolute. As of September 1, we expect to begin reopening programs on a case-by-case basis, based on local government guidelines and the advice of medical experts.

We know that the poor and vulnerable populations we serve are already feeling a disproportionate impact from COVID-19. Stay-at-home orders, closed schools, layoffs, and medical shortages land differently on those sheltering in a damaged home, in a community without internet or one without a clinic, or for those already struggling to afford basic necessities. Our goal now is to sustain our model and prepare to meet the challenges that COVID is already injecting into the disaster recovery landscape, so we can serve our mission over the long haul.

We are incredibly eager to return to the field, and continue serving families that still need our help. This fall, as soon as we are safely able, we will be setting up a program serving Jackson and Calhoun Counties. If all goes as planned, we will be able to engage staff and volunteers early in our operational re-start timeline (which in this case means we may have boots on the ground in Florida as early as September 1st)! I look forward to keeping you updated as plans progress, and the situation surrounding COVID-19 evolves.

Thank you for your ongoing support. You have our gratitude and sincere wishes for your health and well-being.


 
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