David Campbell’s All Hands non-profit provides disaster relief

All Hands Volunteers has had over 40,000 volunteers who have impacted 500,000 lives. (Courtesy of All Hands Volunteers)

Kelly Skelton
Connector Editor

David Campbell had a decorated business profile of over 40 years. That is, before he founded All Hands Volunteers. On Nov. 15, Campbell spoke in front of a crowd of students and faculty regarding the opportunities and mission behind All Hands Volunteers.

Life changed for Campbell in 2004 when he was drawn to help natural disaster aid in Thailand following a massive tsunami. Initially, Campbell sought out to provide short-term relief. Soon after, he found himself launching his non-profit organization All Hands Volunteer to help in the recovery of natural disasters.

The efforts of this organization have lasted far beyond Thailand as Campbell quickly found himself helping victims of Hurricane Katrina. In an article with ABC News, Campbell cited recovery efforts as being “underserved.” To counteract this discovery, Campbell deploys a new philosophy in his organization of “coming in early and staying late.”

The organization has impacted the lives of over 500,000 people in a number of countries including the United States, Philippines, Nepal, Japan and Ecuador. Campbell added that the SUV’s, or spontaneous unaffiliated volunteers, are vital to All Hands’ success.

“The organization serves as a platform for people to show up and be productive. The work can be difficult, but very engaging,” said Campbell.

In addition to the repairs and recovery, All Hands is committed to the volunteer’s experience. “[The] impact on volunteers is the most important thing, seeing new places, new perspectives and witnessing individuals driven by purpose,” said Campbell.

The effects of All Hands are remarkable. Campbell recalled some of the responses received from disaster victims. “Clearly this is a school that is built with love,” Campbell said about a specific encounter. While building schools is the specialty, All Hands also builds houses and works with local staff for sustainability.

All Hands certainly has a tough mission ahead, as natural disasters have been more common than ever recently. “The amount of natural disasters has doubled in the past 30 years. We will see increased amounts of flooding in the United States, [so] improving our services is key,” said Campbell. In relation to fundraising, Campbell acknowledged that corporate sponsors and individual donations allow the organization to commit to providing long-term recovery efforts.

With All Hands roster comprising of a 5:1 ratio for volunteers-to-staff, Campbell was not shy about the organization’s success drivers. “We [All Hands staff] are not the solution to the problem. We are a vehicle for our volunteers to help us solve a small portion of the problem. We are the platform” said Campbell. In total, All Hands has been made possible by over 40,000 volunteers.

Several students from the UMass Lowell Management Society that attended an All Hands trip last year returned to thank Campbell for his efforts. Event organizer and business professor, Olga Tines called All Hands a “totally organic organization” and encouraged all students to attend a trip for the life-changing experience it unfolds.

On November 13, All Hands announced a merger with Happy Hearts, another natural disaster recovery organization that was founded by supermodel Petra Nemcova. The organizations cited that a shared purpose and complimenting resources contributed to the merge.

All Hands is currently providing help in Houston and Puerto Rico from the recent effects of Hurricane Harvey and Irma, as well as several other locations globally. There are many trips being organized for the winter and spring breaks.

To learn more about All Hands’ projects and opportunities, visit www.hands.org. UMass Lowell students interested in volunteering can contact linda_barrington@uml.edu from engineering or olga_tines@uml.edu from the business school.

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