Mattapoisett residents get 'All Hands' on deck
Volunteering after a natural disaster is easier than it sounds, says All Hands Volunteers Executive Director Erik Dyson. He said many large relief organizations turn away volunteers or ask them to contribute large sums to help out.
“There are very few ways people can help in disasters. We’re a unique organization that’s actually out there saying to people ‘we want you to come and we have a way to make you effective and useful,’” said Dyson, a Mattapoisett resident.
All Hands, a nonprofit organization, only asks volunteers to buy their own plane ticket. To pay for other costs the group’s leadership raises funds throughout the year.
“Once there, they get room and board and more work than they could ever dream possible,” said Dyson.
David Campbell of Carlisle founded All Hands eight years ago after visiting the tsunami wrecked island of Phuket, Thailand.
“David came to the conclusion that there was a very important space for volunteers to come and help,” said Dyson.
Since then, All Hands has worked on 36 projects, both domestically and internationally, short and long term, with more than 11,000 volunteers.
Dyson left the corporate world to take over for Campbell in July 2013, moving the organization’s headquarters to Mattapoisett. By accepting the position, he hopes to move All Hands Volunteers to the next level.
Mattapoisett native Colin Butterfield also joined the team. A 2011 graduate of Old Rochester Regional High and a film major from Quinnipiac University, Butterfield took two previous humanitarian trips with Dyson before the two were introduced to All Hands.
When Dyson signed on with All Hands, he offered Butterfield the job of administrative manager.
“I had honestly never heard of All Hands before," said Butterfield. "I just kind of jumped in head first.”
Since July, Butterfield has helped with a project on Long Island and, most recently, an area of the Philippines that was hit with a 7.2 earthquake in October.
For 19 days in November, he worked with volunteers and locals to tear down compromised houses, clear away rubble and preserve useful materials for rebuilding.
People from all over the world have come to the area to work with All Hands, sweating it out through high heat and humidity to get the job done.
“You get comfortable being uncomfortable,” Butterfield said. “We accomplish what it would have taken [locals] months to do.”
Butterfield recommends volunteering to anyone.
“If you’ve ever thought about volunteering, helping others in any capacity, whether abroad or down the street, do it,” he said. “Who knows, you just might have one of the greater experiences of your life. I can say without a doubt that I did.”
All Hands Volunteers’ projects are listed on the organization’s website at hands.org.