MATTAPOISETT, Mass. (NEWS CENTER) — This time last year, we were beginning to learn details of the devastating 7.9-magnitude earthquake that hit Nepal. Whole villages were destroyed and at least 9,000 people perished. The massive quake triggered powerful landslides, destroying everything and everyone in their path.
In the aftermath, thousands of volunteers have helped rebuild and restore.
Many have done so through the organization All Hands Volunteers, a disaster relief nonprofit located in Massachusetts. Founded by David Campbell, a former IT executive, the group aims to relieve pain and suffering while providing volunteer opportunities for young people and adults who want to do something.
“Nepal is really a tragic situation," Campbell said. "It’s a poor country [with] a challenging government situation, frankly…there were 5,000 schools destroyed.”
Houses were also decimated.
Jonny Read, the project director in Nepal, has been working with All Hands in Nepal for the past three months. The 28-year-old from Great Britain leads volunteers who arrive ready to do fieldwork.
“A lot of the houses are rock and mud, and so we just separate out the mud and the dirt and then we put the rocks to one side so that the beneficiary can use the rocks again to rebuild their home,” Read said.
He describes the process, called 'rubbling', in which a line of volunteers rocks and boulders down a conveyor line of sorts, after being pulled off of a home or building.
“Whole villages were devastated. Houses slide down the side of the mountain,” said Kennebunk High School teacher Robin Vaughan, who worked as a “rubbler” during the five weeks she spent volunteering in Nepal through All Hands.
“As you’re rubbling, you never know what you’re going to find underneath. They try to do a really good job of excavating the area but a lot of times it’s not possible,” Vaughan shared.
She said that volunteers in her group uncovered animals killed when they were caught in the landslide.
Vaughan followed her 23-year-old daughter to Nepal. Taylor Vaughan had been working with All Hands in the Philippines doing clean up work.
“So, I thought I have some time, a little money in the bank, I’m going to go and see what this is all about," Vaughan said. "I ended up working with Taylor. She was my boss and we actually got along really well.”
The experience, Vaughan says, changed her.
“It is incredible. It has restored my faith—not only in our younger generation but in humanity,” Vaughan said. “It’s not just a restructuring, rubbling, rebuilding, it’s an emotional journey for all involved.”
And that’s the impact David Campbell anticipates is what motivates volunteers to return to the work of volunteering. He says there are three parts to volunteering: physical structures that result from working on the schools in Nepal. Secondly, the psychological message to the people being helped.
“The third thing is the impact on the volunteers where they feel that there is a purpose—a part of a purpose in their life and that they’re directly connected with people in need and that they know that what they did was needed and was appreciated and was effective,” Campbell said.
“Maine people certainly have an independence, a ruggedness and a certain set of competencies that can be used in major disasters,” Campbell added.
To learn about volunteer opportunities with All Hands volunteers, check out Hands.org. Volunteers are currently needed in Nepal and in Ecuador, site of the most recent and destructive earthquake.