All Hands and Hearts

year 2, week 52:  this week i'm gonna... restore hope

Devastation in Thailand after the tsunami  (photo credit: Getty Images)

Devastation in Thailand after the tsunami (photo credit: Getty Images)

December 26, 2004 was a beautiful sunny day in Thailand. Petra Nemcova, a well-known model and television host, was taking a walk with her fiancé on the beach as they wrapped up their vacation. In a matter of seconds, life changed for them and for millions of other people. There was no warning; buildings around them completely disintegrated and people were screaming as water came crashing over them. Broken glass flew everywhere and people were trying to hold on to anything to survive. An earthquake had struck in the Indian Ocean, and the resulting tsunami created a wave of water that enveloped the land and pulled people out to sea.

Nemcova lost her fiancé and suffered serious injuries, breaking her pelvis in four places and almost drowning. She managed to survive by holding on to a palm tree for eight hours until she was rescued by Thai civilians and airlifted to an inland hospital nearby. 

Nemcova states, "The most painful part was not the physical pain. It was emotional pain from hearing children screaming for help. Because there was debris around me and I was trapped, I couldn’t go and help them. After half an hour, I couldn’t hear their voices anymore, which meant that they couldn’t hold on any longer. In that moment, I didn’t have a choice. I couldn’t help them. Now I that I have survived, I have the choice to help children." 

Petra Nemcova  (photo credit: Business Wire)

Petra Nemcova (photo credit: Business Wire)

A few months after the tsunami, Nemcova went back to Thailand and founded an organization to rebuild safe, resilient schools in areas impacted by natural disasters. 

"All Hands and Hearts is really a huge part of my life. It's something that has taught me about compassion and the incredible beauty which is in the human spirit," she says.


All Hands and Hearts was created in fall 2017 with the merger of Happy Hearts Fund and All Hands Volunteers.

Happy Hearts Fund was founded by Petra Nemcova in 2005 in the wake of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami to restore hope and grant new opportunities to children and communities affected by natural disasters by rebuilding schools. To date, Happy Hearts Fund has financed 165 disaster-resilient schools to the benefit of over 100,000 children in communities in Peru, Mexico, Chile, Colombia, Haiti, Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines, and Nepal.

All Hands Volunteers was founded by David Campbell in 2005 and is a volunteer-powered disaster relief organization dedicated to rebuilding hope for people impacted by natural disasters all over the world. Over the last 12 years, they have enabled over 39,000 volunteers to donate 200,000 days impacting 500,000 people worldwide.

To learn more about All Hands and Hearts, please watch the video below:

Kids in their new classroom  (photo credit: All Hands and Hearts)

Kids in their new classroom (photo credit: All Hands and Hearts)

All Hands and Hearts focuses on rebuilding schools (in addition to homes and community structures) because Nemcova saw firsthand how children can suffer in temporary buildings without safe places to learn and grow. 

"You lose a generation," she states. "School is an incredible change-maker. It's really [about] rebuilding the future of the community."

In early 2017, the north portion of Peru was devastated by an abnormal warming of Pacific waters called Coastal El Niño, which unleashed a deluge of water on coastal towns. The intense rains were the worst seen in two decades, triggering deadly landslides and mudflows.

These floods impacted over 863,000 people, damaging or destroying 2,300 schools and leaving over 285,000 children out of school. Piura was the most affected area in Peru, with over 50% of the population displaced and living in temporary camps. More than 75,000 homes and over 652 schools were damaged or destroyed.

Volunteers building Puerta Pulache  (photo credit: All Hands and Hearts)

Volunteers building Puerta Pulache (photo credit: All Hands and Hearts)

All Hands and Hearts is currently partnering with SURA-Peru to rebuild schools in the Piura area. The first school is Puerta Pulache, which will serve 150 primary school students. 

“I was blessed to survive a near death experience and this has taught me a huge lesson. We cannot control nature, but we can control the actions we take,” Nemcova states.

Notes for this week:

  • December 26th is the 13th anniversary of the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami.
  • Our collective givetwig donation will sponsor current efforts to rebuild schools in Peru and Nepal.
  • For more information on All Hands and Hearts, please check out their website.

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