Volunteers on site at Morne Prosper

Since the passage of Hurricane Maria on September 18th of 2017 Dominica has received assistance from a large number of donors. Some of these have been Governments, but a good many organizations coming to the aid of Dominica in its time of need have been private NGO’s. One of the most innovative of these private organizations is All Hands and Hearts whose tag line is “A Smart Response”.

The history of the organization is somewhat surreal. On Boxing Day 2004 a massive 9.1 earthquake struck in the Indian Ocean triggering one of the most destructive Tsunamis in recorded human history killing more than 250,000 souls.

One of the persons who managed to escape a watery death was super model Petra Nemcova from the Czech Republic who was holidaying in Thailand with her significant other. He was not as lucky as Petra Nemcova and perished in the waves.

For Ms Nemcova it was not the physical pain from her injuries, but the heart rending cry of the children crying for help during and after the Tsunami that affected her the most. She resolved to do something to aid child survivors of natural disasters wherever they might be in the world. She decided that the most effective ways she could realize her aim was to help rebuild schools and other structures primarily used by children. She founded the Happy Hearts Fund in 2005 initially focusing on the child survivors of the Tsunami.

American businessman David Campbell was on the verge of retirement in 2004. When he heard of the very disastrous situation in Thailand and the other countries impacted by the Tsunami he immediately thought that he should do something for those suffering from the effects of the disaster. He travelled to Thailand determined to put his management experience in the tech industry to use. He eventually founded the non-profit All Hands Volunteers focused on post disaster rebuilding of structures that would be more resilient to future disasters, be they earthquakes, Hurricanes or volcanic eruption.

In 2007 he met Petra Nemcova when their respective organizations were responding to an earthquake disaster in Peru. The two groups kept in touch and in 2015 they responded jointly to rebuild more resilient schools and other structures devastated by the Nepal earthquake. In 2017 the founders of the two organizations decided to merge their organizations around the tag line “smart response “into All Hands and Hearts – Smart Response.

All Hands and Hearts – Smart Response is powered by volunteers from 18 years to 80. The headquarters of the organization is in Massachusetts USA, but whenever a disaster strikes and a call for volunteers goes out the response is worldwide. All volunteers are required to pay their airfare or other travel cost to the disaster area and the organization takes care of locating suitable lodging, transportation and other logistics. In Dominica there are currently 42 volunteers from 10 countries working on rebuilding projects, but wherever possible the organization also uses as much local labour as can be sourced in the disaster area, including professionals.

In Dominica All Hands and Hearts – Smart Response has already rebuilt the Paix Bouche Primary and Pre School to be both Hurricane and Earthquake resistant.  They have also assisted some residents in Calibishie and Morne Prosper in rebuilding their homes. The volunteers are now in the final phase of rebuilding the Morne Prosper Primary and Pre-school after which they will tackle the Charlotte Pre-school in Newtown.

All Hands and Hearts – Smart Response are scheduled to leave Dominica by the end of January after doing a very commendable job of building back better and stronger schools and homes.