As a project progresses, people stay longer and deeper friendships are formed. The goodbye section of the nightly meeting becomes an emotional gauntlet when the time comes for much-loved volunteers to leave. April in Haiti saw tears almost every night as volunteers who had, combined, committed years of work in the community of Leogane, coincidentally left one after the other.
And sometimes a volunteer who is here for just a few days manages to impress and inspire us all. Isabelle, a French woman who has made Japan her home, was devastated when she watched images of the tsunami. Like so many who volunteer with All Hands she was moved to help those affected and gave up her vacation time to travel to Ofunato and work with us. She worked tirelessly on the dirtiest jobs, recognised individually by her team leader for never having a bag off her back as a team worked to remove mud-sodden boxes from a factory building.
People like Isabelle are why All Hands works and why people like me stay for so long. We see the best of people in some of the worst times. I am privileged to be here helping people to give something back to the country that has given them so much; to be sharing a beer with Daiki, Ofunato born and bred, as he tells me the tears in his eyes are tears of happiness that people have come from all over the country and the world to help his hometown recover; to get to spend all of my time with people, local, national and international, who have come to help for no other reason than that people need help.