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  • Lisa Dewberry

Helping natural disaster struck communities

Updated: Aug 6


Petra’s understanding of the power of mother nature helps her connect with those in need of aid, empowerment and hope after their lives have been shattered. PHOTO: ImageCollab

The world watched in shock as a 9.1 magnitude earthquake brought an Indian Ocean tsunami to life on 26 December 2004 which led to a death-toll of over 250 000 individuals and changed the lives of millions in Sumatra, Indonesia. For Petra Němcová, 41 year old Czechoslovakian entrepreneur and supermodel, this disaster was a turning point in her life leading to her becoming a co-founder of All Hands and Hearts – Smart Response. In a matter of seconds and without warning, Petra and Simon Atlee, her partner were swept away in the tsunami as the power of nature was too strong for anyone and Atlee lost his life. She miraculously survived the tsunami by clinging to a palm tree with a pelvis that was broken in four places for eight hours and was found by a Thai man who risked his life to save her as another wave could have come at any minute. Petra recalls that the most painful part of this experience was not the physical trauma but the emotional pain of hearing children screaming for help while she was hanging onto the palm tree. At that moment, she didn’t have the option to help them but now she has made it part of her life mission to aid children who survive natural disasters, but are often forgotten due to lack of sustained response. This experience fueled her daily passion to make a difference in the world and to help rebuild disaster-resilient schools and homes. Her understanding of the power of mother nature helps her connect with those in need of aid, empowerment and hope after their lives have been shattered. All Hands and Hearts focus on delivering a smart response to those reeling from disaster both domestically and internationally. The organisation is committed to effectively and efficiently address the immediate and long-term needs of communities impacted by natural disasters and their team arrives early for first response and stays late to rebuild schools and homes in a disaster-resilient way. Petra’s entrepreneurial spirit materialised in 2013 when she launched Be The Light New York (BTLNY), an international luxury home décor brand, with Christian Hosford, her co-founder and branding expert. Inspired by her life of traveling to fascinating countries, BTLNY brings elements of playful travel luxury to enrich homes and lives with 10% of all proceeds going to rebuilding schools. Petra has graced a number of campaigns and is a global brand ambassador for Chopard, Mercedes and Tumi, following her major breakthrough in 2003 as the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition cover girl. As a model, she has achieved international success, working with brands such as Max Factor, Pantene, Clarins, La Perla, Clinique and Victoria’s Secret. This philanthropist is also a renowned public speaker and author of Love Always, Petra which she wrote to help children affected by the 2004 tsunami with 100% of the proceeds being sent to support Thai children. She serves on Concordia’s Leadership Council, the advisory board of Glamour’s Women of the Year Fund. Petra has received several accolades for her philanthropic work from organisations including the United Nations, Women Together, Glamour Woman of the Year and Do Something. In 2017, she was appointed as a Disaster Risk Reduction Champion and Tsunami Awareness Advocate by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction.

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