Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, Together!

Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, Together!

April 22, 2020

On January 1, 2016, the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development went into effect. The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 targets are designed by the UN to help stimulate action in areas of critical importance for humanity and the planet, “ranging from poverty and gender to climate change, inequality and closing the finance gap.” These Global Goals are a blueprint to help guide the world towards achieving a better and more sustainable future for all.

With just 10 years to go, an ambitious global effort is underway to deliver the 2030 promise in what leaders are referring to as the Decade of Action. This calls for accelerating sustainable solutions to all of the world’s biggest challenges, by mobilizing more governments, civil society, businesses and calling on all people to make the Global Goals their own.


For more than 15 years, All Hands and Hearts has striven to undertake activities that provide long-term solutions to the impacts of disasters. Our work is intrinsically tied to elements of sustainable development and we are uniquely positioned to demonstrate action at a global, local and individual level. 

Our mission is to effectively and efficiently address the immediate and long-term needs of communities impacted by natural disasters. We communicate directly with local leaders and community members and then deploy our unique model of engaging volunteers to enable direct impact, helping to build safer, more resilient schools, homes, and infrastructure.

It is both our mission and expertise in providing effective disaster relief to vulnerable communities that align our work with several Sustainable Development Goals. Through our unique volunteer model, we accelerate progress toward Goals 4, 6 and 11.


Goal 4 aims to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all; the UN has identified this as the foundation to creating sustainable development. In addition to playing an important role in improving quality of life, the UN believes access to inclusive education will help equip people with the tools required to develop innovative solutions to the world’s greatest problems.

Our projects are designed and implemented with the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) Worldwide Initiative for Safe Schools (WISS) in mind. 

Pillar 1: Safe School Facilities. We design disaster-resilient infrastructure in line with international standards and the host nation’s governing reconstruction authority. Our trained construction staff and volunteers work together to build disaster-resilient infrastructure. 

Pillar 2: School Disaster Management. We organize evacuation drills, develop standard operating procedures with school management committees, capacity building and training exercises for hazards and disasters.

Pillar 3: Risk Reduction & Resilience Education. We engage local stakeholders/organizations in school safety education activities and staff development.

All Hands and Hearts has worked on more than 303 schools in 13 countries around the world – improving access to quality education in a post-disaster context is a focus of the organization and we have a proven track record of impact across the world. Specifically, we help to build educational facilities and minimize the disruption of disaster events on education within vulnerable communities.

Together with our donors and volunteers, we help ensure students complete equitable and quality primary and secondary education by providing access to disaster-resilient educational facilities. These facilities are child, disability and gender-sensitive, providing safe, inclusive learning environments.

A significant portion of the work we focus on internationally falls within goal 4 and it is through the construction of disaster-resilient schools that we enabled more than 112,000 students to return to school. Providing access to educational facilities not only provides students with a reprieve from the impacts of the disaster on their community but also opens the door to future opportunities.

Within the state of Morelos, Mexico, Narciso Mendoza Primary School was rendered unsafe for use after the devastating 2017 Mexico earthquakes. In partnership with Happy Hearts Mexico (now All Hands and Hearts Mexico), we constructed six classrooms, one computer room, one multi-purpose room, a ‘cooperativa’ for parents to serve food from and gender-sensitive toilets for students and teachers which are handicap accessible. Additionally, we removed unsafe structures, painted and repaired external structures, built pathways and planters and secured the perimeter fence. Narciso Mendoza now serves 151 students and offers them the opportunity to learn in a beautiful, safe and disaster-resilient environment.


Goal 6 aims to ensure access to clean water is obtained by all and is managed sustainably; this is highlighted as an essential part of the world we want to live in. Millions of people around the world lack access to clean water and adequate sanitation and hygiene facilities. This issue is compounded by disasters that damage existing infrastructure. 

On our international relief programs, a strategic focus is to implement Renewal Projects which includes Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WaSH). WaSH projects help us to accelerate progress towards SDG 6, as we strive to ensure access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene in the communities we serve.

On April 25, 2015, Nepal was struck by a devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake. Less than two weeks later, a 7.3 magnitude struck several districts, including Makwanpur, bringing further damage. More than four years later the Manakamana school had yet to receive help.

In October 2019, All Hands and Hearts set to work rebuilding the school and five months later we completed the school with:

  • 12 disaster-resilient classrooms, including two early childhood development rooms and one computer lab;
  • A 50,000 liter underground water retention tank, supported with rainwater harvesting system which holds a year’s supply of water;
  • Two refurbished toilet blocks with extra hand washing stations (connected to the retention tank);
  • A new kitchen building with an improved stove, serving station and taps (connected to the retention tank); 
  • Bio-sand water filtration for safe handwashing and drinking water;
  • Beautiful landscaping complete with murals, retaining walls, a playground and basketball court;
  • New perimeter fence and handrail fencing within school grounds

In addition to the work performed at the school, we also worked alongside the community and local partners to provide further resources to the community: 

  • Two 20,000 liter water tanks with capacity to serve 80 households;
  • Disaster Risk Reduction training and evacuation drills; 
  • WaSH hygiene training, including education on menstrual health and two sanitary pad production workshops; 
  • Female mason training with four local women;
  • Weekly English language lessons for masons and community 

We provided Makwanpur with more than just a school. The community now has access to safe and disaster-resilient educational facilities, WaSH resources and the knowledge they need to create a better future for themselves. 


Goal 11 aims to help make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. Our long-term commitment to disaster-affected areas enables us to work alongside communities to implement more sustainable solutions together. We support the building of safer, more resilient schools, homes and infrastructure to help people recover faster and mitigate the risks of future disasters.

With the help of our donors and volunteers, we have been able to support developing countries, impacted by natural hazards, in building sustainable, resilient buildings that utilize local materials. Similarly, our work contributes towards providing access to adequate, safe and affordable housing that is of an adequate living standard. Through our renewal projects we have also been able to help in decreasing the direct economic losses relative to global GDP caused by disasters, by helping to restore critical infrastructure.

Hurricanes Irma and Maria battered the island of Puerto Rico in September 2017. Through our long-term relief efforts, we helped provide adequate and safe housing by repairing over 600 roofs across the island.

The hurricane-resistant roofs are built using 24 gauge galvalume sheets, roofing screws and neoprene washers. Hurricane straps are also utilized to increase the roofs’ wind resistance capabilities and each roof is waterproofed using sealant that will last at least 10 years. Additionally, structures made of wood are constructed using pressure treated wood for longevity and insect-resistance, and all connections are made with either screws or Simpson hurricane fasteners to carry the load of the home. 

“La ultima vez que llovio, nada se mojo. Antes todo se mojaba. El trabajo quedo de un millon como decimos en Puerto Rico.” [Last time it rained, there were no leaks. Before, everything would get wet. The work turned out ‘at a million’ like we say in Puerto Rico.] 

– Miguel Marrero

Miguel Marrero is one of the homeowners who received our support after the hurricanes. Miguel’s roof was severely damaged, leaving holes where water would pour in when it rained and allowing dangerous mold to grow. Our staff and volunteers performed roof and interior repairs, preventing mold growth and providing a safe, dry home.

Together, we are able to help families, like Miguel’s, recover faster and our work continues to help mitigate the risks of potential disasters.

Miguel Marrero and a family member outside their newly repaired home in Puerto Rico