January 7, 2019
Our first fiscal year (09/01/17-08/31/18) as a combined organization, All Hands and Hearts (AHAH), brought great opportunity and results: 7,869 volunteers worked across 23 programs, serving nine countries—impacting 21,757 people and rebuilding/repairing 20 schools (FY 2018 Annual Report). We are in awe of our staff, volunteers, donors, partners and beneficiary communities that made this possible.
While we celebrate all we’ve accomplished together, it’s equally important to focus on the actions we must take to improve. We learned a tremendous amount last year, and a priority is strengthening our safety system to help our staff and volunteers be better prepared to work in disaster areas and rebuild disaster resilient communities.
Indonesia Relief – Earthquake Response (Lombok Program)
In hearing and understanding the concerns of our staff and community of volunteers and supporters, we want to share more about Indonesia, what led to the closing of the Lombok Program and our action plan.
In August 2018 the island of Lombok, Indonesia was struck by two significant earthquakes. With mass destruction and many fatalities, the world sprang to action and AHAH heeded this call. Our Disaster Assessment and Response Team identified Jenggala as a starting point for our response, and at the beginning of September 2018 our program kicked off.
We, unfortunately, encountered a series of negative events which led us to close the program earlier than originally projected—chief among them were the tragic accident that occurred to Rachel “Rocky” Taylor and the potential asbestos exposure to staff and volunteers engaged in debris clearance.
In the wake of the events, we commissioned an independent study by 6 Pillar Consulting to review our Standard Operating Procedures for our demolition program and the ways we assess and communicate potential workplace hazards to our staff and volunteers. The findings from 6 Pillar Consulting highlighted systematic weaknesses, in relation to health and safety, that existed on our Indonesia program. While troubling to see, it shows the need for AHAH to significantly improve our focus and commitment (on the safety of our volunteers and staff) while balancing our desire to help disaster-impacted communities.
We thank all of the volunteers and staff that participated in the program assessment as we know the situation was a traumatic one. We also want to thank 6 Pillar Consulting for their professional and thorough review of the matter.
Support for Rocky
Rocky is a beloved volunteer that has joined us on many programs over the years. The medical and evacuation insurance we provide for every volunteer, serving outside their home country, worked as designed and covered all costs associated with Rocky’s accident until she arrived back in the U.S.
We are committed to continuing to support Rocky on her long road to recovery. We have been grateful to see the outpouring of support from the AHAH community and Rocky has also asked us to pass along her sincere thanks to everyone for their support and encouragement. For those wanting to help, the campaign on GoFundMe continues.
Our Safety Management System
While disaster response and recovery work have inherent health and safety risks, 6 Pillar Consulting’s findings highlight a shortcoming in our safety systems which resulted in inadequate support, processes and training to our team. We believe health and safety are of utmost importance, and we commit to take each of 6 Pillar Consulting’s recommendations seriously. Over the coming months, we will take action on each of the following items:
- Implement new processes, reflective of the recommendations outlined by 6 Pillar Consulting, in the start-up of our programs to ensure we are prioritizing safety before we begin work;
- Implement a safety management system, in existing and new programs, that will be designed to take into account the reality of the variety of places we work, from a geographic perspective, and also the type of work we engage in; and
- Benchmark our safety management system against established standards to ensure it is holistic and of high quality.
Subsequent Disasters in Indonesia
We constantly monitor events throughout the world and respond to requests for assistance from local communities, partner organizations and governments. AHAH did not respond to the Sulawesi earthquake and tsunami or the Sunda Strait tsunami due to specific direction from the Indonesian Government to international NGOs to not mobilize.
AHAH will continue to monitor future events in Indonesia and, in cases where our support is welcome, we will be ready to assess how we can be of help.
We thank you for your feedback and ongoing support, and will keep you informed of the changes we’re implementing this year.
Erik Dyson, CEO
Photo by Hannah Farajpanahi for All Hands and Hearts – Smart Response