Airlink is grateful to our partners Aeromexico, Air Canada, United Airlines, and Volaris for enabling Airlink to support this mission with flights for All Hands and Hearts DM12 Volunteers. As a result, we’ve coordinated travel for 34 volunteers.
Being a disaster response organization, it is to be expected that a large part of our energy and effort is spent dealing with the ‘immediate.’ True, supporting impacted communities and our NGO partners in the frenetic aftermath of natural or human-made disasters is a critical part of what we do, but that’s not the whole story.
One of the hardest things to contend with in the humanitarian response field is the pace at which the public consciousness often moves on in the aftermath of a crisis. Unfortunately, fundraising opportunities often follow this constricted timeframe.
Tragedy and destruction take but a few moments, but the impact can be felt for months, often years. As public interest and thus funding evaporates, communities can be left stranded. But, that is where an organization like Airlink can help.
We support many long-term recovery programs. By alleviating the cost burden of air transport for our NGO partners they, in turn, can devote their restricted resources to service delivery and humanitarian aid. A great example of a recent long-term recovery mission is with our partner All Hands and Hearts in Mexico.
Back in September of 2017, Mexico was struck by one of the most lethal earthquakes in its history. With a destructive magnitude of 8.2, the quake struck close to the southern state of Chiapas. Worse still, less than two weeks later, a 7.1 magnitude quake impacted central Mexico. Toppling buildings, breaking gas mains, knocking out electricity, and sparking fires across the city and other towns in central Mexico.
All Hands and Hearts (AHAH) has been supporting critical rebuilding efforts in Mexico since 2018. Following a phased approach, they are now executing on phase four and preparing to launch phase five. Mostly focused on rebuilding schools, the latest deployment of AHAH DM12 volunteers began their work in January 2021. Rebuilding eight schools damaged by the 2017 earthquakes has required the efforts of over 1,300 volunteers who have contributed more than 24,000 volunteer days.
This latest phase focuses on rebuilding two schools that serve more than 200 students – Escuela Secundaria Paulo Freire and Escuela Primaria Insurgente Vicente Guerrero – in the state of Oaxaca. All Hands and Hearts’ work includes school rebuilding and retrofitting, landscaping, and Renewal Projects like WaSH.
This last point about Renewal Projects is especially important – and all too often neglected. In a disaster, the devastation isn’t just to the physical buildings and infrastructure of a community. The impact is also felt in terms of the lifestyle norms – having experienced lockdowns during COVID-19, I think we can all understand how the loss of those cultural norms, both big and small, disrupt the flow of life, impacting mental and spiritual well-being.
Uniquely, by living amongst the communities they serve, AHAH volunteers become a part of them, and so can better identify new ways to help support communities in their recovery. One such initiative is the provision of Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) training. These interactive workshops are usually delivered in person, but the AHAH team has adapted the training to be shared via podcasts in adherence with their COVID-19 safety measures. AHAH’s method of working allows local communities to be part of their own rebuilding effort, so it is something being done with them, not to them, and that is empowering.
Since 2009, AHAH has worked alongside their affiliate All Hands and Hearts Mexico (previously Happy Hearts Fund Mexico), and has directly affected over 6,000 students and restored 18 schools to become safe, functional and disaster-resilient.
What All Hands and Hearts has achieved is an extraordinary endeavor. At Airlink, we are glad to be able to play our part in supporting this work in Mexico, but also in other long-term recovery projects across multiple regions.