Q and A with All Hands Team Leader, Nathan Heath

Project Staten Island

All Hands Team Leader Nathan Heath from Knoxville, TN

Nathan first connected with All Hands while he was working in Haiti with another organization. Still in Haiti when Hurricane Sandy hit, Nathan saw the effects of Sandy there – a nation still grappling with the devastation of the 2010 earthquake – and also traveled to Cuba to learn from their response efforts. Now Nathan is based in Staten Island, leading teams of volunteers in the mold treatment process on our Hurricane Sandy Response.

What is the nature of the work you do and how do you think it is helping the community?

In New York we are specifically addressing mold. The biggest concern – and I think the biggest potential benefit to the community (from our work) – is the health effects that we are going to see in the next 10, 20, 30 years. (Without our mold treatment) there would be homes full of mold…our work is really going to change that for some families. And hopefully it will help to retain the value of their investments. For a lot of these families this is their only property, this is all they have and I think we offer people a significant step in returning to normalcy.

What has your experience been like as a Team Leader with All Hands on our Superstorm Sandy Response?

I have learned a ton about tools, about building and construction. There has been a big learning curve with working in disasters. With our Superstorm Sandy response, we get to do a lot more detailed work. It takes a few months to get your skills down and understand the partners that we work with, the other organizations, communities, and neighbors. When you talk to someone and they say, ‘Oh, I live on this street,’ you can put a face on it because you have worked on that street, you have worked on their neighbor’s house. You start to build relationships with the homeowners. You are helping out families that you could have easily gone to high school with their kids, you could have played on their soccer team. It could have been your family. It’s really personal digging through people’s homes, (and for many the home contains) childhood memories just like your home does. It’s a little different than in an international context – which is easier to separate;, this one is a little more personal.

Why would you encourage someone to become a Team Leader?

To dedicate a few months to just helping out other people can really change your worldview, your understanding of how community is built and the ways other people view the world. It’s amazing how many people are shocked to hear you have given up 3 or 6 months to go out and just help their neighbors, and give whatever you can to whoever needs it. It really can change people’s lives. I don’t think there is anybody team leading with All Hands who hasn’t been seriously affected by volunteering a significant period of time. It has redirected some people’s lives away from more traditional pursuits. People have redirected their lives around being volunteers, traveling, doing disaster aid, and development. I guess that is the biggest thing: it really can change your life.

Team Leaders play a critical role on our Superstorm Sandy Response. If you have experience leading teams of volunteers, learn how you can become an All Hands Team Leader: http://hands.org/2012/11/30/team-leader-openings/.

Project Staten Island