Disaster relief organization completes second phase of Abaco community rebuild

Disaster relief organization completes second phase of Abaco community rebuild

All Hands and Hearts completes $10.5M-worth of disaster relief projects, including schools, and homes, over 2.5 years

GREAT ABACO, BAHAMAS — All Hands and Hearts (AHAH), a non-profit organization helping people and communities impacted by disasters, announced yesterday that they are completing their Hurricane Dorian Relief Program after more than 2.5 years of delivering $10.5 million in relief services to Great Abaco.

AHAH “arrives early and stays late” with their work in the Bahamas representing their largest single program to date involving 770 volunteers from more than 33 countries. Arriving in the weeks following the storm, AHAH provided the full range of relief services from debris removal and home clean-up to roof repair and full rebuilding.

In total, AHAH helped to rebuild 172 structures, including homes, schools, and other community projects, positively impacting nearly 2,600 citizens of Marsh Harbour in Great Abaco.

Of the eight schools that were reconstructed, four required a complete rebuild, including the area’s only school for children with disabilities. The Every Child Counts Primary School, a 12,620 square-foot campus, consists of five buildings that will serve more than 60 students.

“It is very difficult to express sufficiently the gratitude we feel. When we evacuated Abaco, All Hands and Hearts met us in Nassau and promised to remain with us until the school was rebuilt,” said Lyn Major, principal at Every Child Counts Primary School in Abaco.

“There have been hundreds of them, working consistently, from every country that you can think of. Because of [AHAH], a transformed campus has emerged from the rubble of Abaco. We cannot name everyone who helped us, but I would like to reassure you that their names are in our hearts and will remain there. Your support gave us the strength to continue, we could not have done it without you — thank you, thank you, thank you.”

Additionally, AHAH supported the complete rebuild of Central Abaco Primary School, the largest school in Abaco serving more than 830 students. The 30,000 square-foot campus consists of 12 buildings holding 32 classrooms, administrative offices, and more.

According to AHAH, some of the biggest obstacles to navigate over the last few years include a global pandemic, travel and gathering restrictions, supply chain issues, lack of electricity, and more.

The pandemic required AHAH to suspend in-person operations for six months when the pandemic gripped the world, forcing them to hire contractors to continue work and adopt a new volunteer model to help mitigate the risks of volunteers spreading the virus.

With extensive safety measures in place and cohorts of volunteers established, AHAH launched the brand new volunteer model in September of 2020 and over the next year, continued to test the mechanisms of their volunteer program and adapt to ever-changing COVID-19 protocols.

By August of 2021, the experimental volunteer model was officially adopted by AHAH and implemented across nine other programs.

After Hurricane Dorian, Leazona Bethell, who has lived in Abaco for more than 18 years, was looking to help in any way she could. As a former teacher, she was aware of the Bahamas’ education system and what the students required to learn efficiently.

“I wanted to help because as a country, we are lacking in natural disaster response strategies and I wanted to learn as much as I could from an organization specializing in disaster relief,” said Bethell.

“When the next natural disaster inevitably strikes, we’ll have a better understanding of how to respond to meet the needs of community members and their families.”

After working in tandem with AHAH throughout the project, Bethell was brought on board as a corporate relations manager in August of 2021, where she continues to establish and maintain relationships with corporate volunteers around the globe.

The work is not done. With 1,100 homes still in need of repair, AHAH is currently fundraising to begin Phase III of reconstruction. AHAH is looking to raise $1 million, which will provide the necessary resources for approximately six months of work in Great Abaco.

Established in 2017, AHAH has impacted the lives of more than 1.2M people and mobilized over 63,000 volunteers to approximately 100 sites across the globe to help rebuild communities affected by catastrophic natural disasters, including wildfires in Butte County, California, hurricanes in Louisiana, and Guatemala, tornadoes in Kentucky, earthquakes in Peru and Mexico, tsunamis in Japan and more.

Those looking to donate, support or learn more about AHAH are encouraged to visit www.AllHandsAndHearts.org.

Members of the media interested in interviewing someone from All Hands and Hearts should contact Justin Clements at 812.621.0631 or justin.clements@judgepr.com.