Our History

Project Helping Hands (PHH) was started in 1994 by Jeff Solheim as an informal project to send teams of volunteers overseas to provide primary medical services and health education for people who lack access to health care.

The Dakotana Fund was formed in 1998 with the purpose of establishing a non-profit organization through which donated supplies and equipment (primarily medical in nature) could be given directly to individuals and organizations that served vulnerable populations in developing nations. In addition the Dakotana Fund was to be an organization that provided a channel through which interested individuals could volunteer to help meet the needs of the world’s poorest populations.

When the Dakotana Fund obtained official non-profit 501(c)(3) status in 1999, Project Helping Hands became a program within the Dakotana Fund. Initially teams went only to Bolivia. Now PHH sends teams to Bolivia, Haiti, Kenya, Liberia, Sudan, Uganda, the Philippines, Peru and Cambodia. The name "Dakotana Fund" has now been changed to Project Helping Hands. The organization’s funding has come entirely from volunteers who pay for the cost of their trips, or donate money. Medicines, supplies and equipment are donated by team members, private individuals and organizations.

Project Helping Hands regularly organizes and executes volunteer trips that focus on health education as well as medical and dental clinics. Since its founding, PHH has organized and sent more than 100 medical and education teams (deploying more than 1500 volunteers) to serve various countries around the world, including: Bolivia, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Honduras, Kenya, Liberia, Sudan, Peru, Cambodia, the Philippines and Uganda.   

Over the past 20 years PHH volunteers have:

Treated and provided preventive health education for more than 200,000 patients
Provided health education and training for thousands of local health care providers
Performed more than 100 surgical procedures
Pulled more than 15,000 decayed teeth
Fluoridated 80,000 more teeth
Distributed more than 40,000 pairs of glasses
Collected and distributed medical and pharmaceutical supplies valued at more than $10million

Until 2008, PHH was a very small organization that organized only one to three medical teams per year. In the past five years PHH has grown dramatically. In 2012 more than 164 volunteers joined 13 teams to serve 6 countries. Prior to 2010 PHH was completely volunteer-run. In 2011 a Director of Operations was hired and transitioned into the Deputy Executative Director role in 2015.  The new position of Operations Coordinator was implementated in 2015 and we hired a full time employee to this new position.

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