The COVID-19 pandemic has heavily impacted the service industry, the agricultural sector, and tourism.
It also disrupted humanitarian work, preventing aid workers from traveling the world to support vulnerable communities.
The volunteer-driven nonprofit All Hands and Hearts suspended its relief programs at the outset of the pandemic, initially thinking teams would have to wait two months before being sent out again, according to Robin Erler, chief marketing office of All Hands and Hearts.
“We quickly understood that it was going to be much longer,” she told Global Citizen. “During the six-month suspension, we looked at ways that we could help with COVID-specific efforts, while also staying true to our model to provide a platform to volunteers to do relief work around natural disasters.”
Now the team at All Hands and Hearts is once again inviting volunteers to participate in relief work after overhauling its approach in response to the pandemic.
“We’ve heard from a lot of people within our community that they’re looking for ways that they can make a meaningful difference now,” Erler said.
“It’s been inspiring to hear all that people have been able to do at home and in their own communities and virtually in providing support to each other,” she added. “This is a way for people to get back out in our programs to continue with the construction of schools and homes.”
The first groups of volunteers for the new DM12 Initiative (which stands for Disaster Management 12 Weeks) recently went to the Bahamas to help communities rebuild in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian last year. The next groups are heading out to Texas and Florida to help with hurricane relief as well.
Now All Hands and Hearts is recruiting volunteers in the United States to travel to Los Angeles for a 12-week volunteer program dealing with the consequences of wildfires and COVID-19.
The Los Angeles program will focus on distributing emergency meal kids and orchestrating COVID-19 tests, while assisting various nonprofits in their work.
The deadline for applying is Sept. 26. Find out more here.
The volunteering opportunity goes beyond traditional relief work to include skills training, leadership development, and other educational classes.
“We’re trying to cover a wide range of skills,” Erler said. “There’s skills development within the actual work they’re doing, the technical skills.”
She added that volunteers will learn about community organizing, how to promote diversity and inclusion, and how to become better storytellers.
“We want volunteers to be able to tell powerful stories and be advocates on behalf of the communities they’re working alongside,” Erler said.
The organization is fully covering travel, room and board, and food, and volunteers will receive small stipends for incidental expenses.
The program has also been designed to minimize the risk of COVID-19. All of the volunteers will arrive at the same time, receive guidance around public health, and get COVID-19 tests. They’ll then be separated into “bubbles” of volunteers who will live and work together to prevent potential outbreaks.
ATTN: The #volunteer application for our #COVID19 Relief Program in Los Angeles, CA is open today! Join our DM12 initiative, a 12-week service commitment to #communities most impacted by #COVID. Deadline to apply is Saturday, September 26th, midnight EST: https://t.co/8P8uWqHbzqpic.twitter.com/hoGHBTqnHR— All Hands and Hearts (@AllHandsHearts) September 18, 2020
At the end of the 12-week experience, volunteers will receive certificates documenting the skills and training they’ve received that they can then use to bolster their resumes, Erler said.
But this is ultimately an opportunity to play a role in building a more just world.
“It’s an opportunity right now to do meaningful work alongside communities who are already vulnerable,” Erler said. “They’re recovering from a natural disaster, and COVID has compounded that. It’s a way to get out there and do hands on work, build meaningful connections, and build new skills.”
Learn more about All Hands and Hearts volunteering opportunities here.