Normally, as a Patch football blogger/all-out football nerd, the eve of the regular season would be about the time when I normally go into bizarro football-mode and crank out half a dozen posts within a couple of days. This year, however, I haven't been able to do that because I joined FEMA Corps, which I'll spend the next year working for. Since I'm not producing any football coverage, I decided to write out a post about what I'm doing now, so here goes nothing.
The Story So Far
The thing called Americorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) has been around since 1993. It's made up of teams of 8-12 young adults, ages 18 through 24, who volunteer to spend a year doing community service for the federal government. They do disaster relief, refurbish houses, file people's tax returns, improve national parks, fight invasive species and do other volunteer-esque tasks. In exchange for their services, they are trained, housed and fed by the government for that year.
So far, so good. Then, in 2011, FEMA and NCCC decided to partner up. FEMA would fund the expansion of NCCC by a further 1,600 members, who would then work directly with FEMA for the duration of their service years. That's where I come in. Wanting to do community service after completing my college degree, I signed on as one of the 1,600 new hires. Along with 240 other young, idealistic, service-minded folks, I moved to a NCCC campus in Vicksburg, Mississippi and settled in for a solid month of training.
What Are We Doing?
It's been an amazing experience thus far. We've had a dizzying array of training programs thrown at us; in the past three weeks, I've gotten basic medical training (CPR, how to use an AED, first aid), learned how to approach disaster survivors, how to write effectively in an office setting, how to work and live with the same 9-11 people for nine consecutive months without variation, how to handle the huge stresses of the job and a dozen other subjects. For NCCC, teaching us how to live together is just as important as teaching us to do our jobs effectively. They want us to be as productive, happy and healthy as possible, in part because discontent in the ranks cuts into our ability to work effectively.
There's plenty more training after that, too. In two weeks, we ship out to Anniston, Alabama and FEMA's Center for Domestic Preparedness, where our FEMA overlords will teach us everything we need to know about working with FEMA and how to do our specialist roles. Everyone on campus has by now received a specialist assignment with FEMA that we'll perform for the whole year; mine is the Community Relations Specialists, the eyes and ears of FEMA who are first on the scene after a disaster event. It's our job to assess the damage, determine what people need, tell them where to go to get it, and report back to headquarters.
By the time it's all over, we'll have had six solid weeks of training and be ready to head out to disasters on a team-by-team basis. Each team is a self-sufficient unit made up of one specialty position, ready to serve in FEMA's disaster relief efforts. We're young and strong, creative and idealistic and highly motivated. We've got eighteen years of tradition to live up to, but this is the plow that breaks the ground for the entire FEMA Corps effort. My campus is the first to host FEMA Corps members, beating out Vinton, Iowa by two whole weeks. We're the inaugural FEMA class and we will not disappoint.
I've been blogging about the whole experience at http://tisdelstirades.blogspot.com. If you're interested, I invite you to follow me there; I'm serving as one of two media representatives for my team, so I should produce plenty of content for your perusal. My bosses will expect me to blog, post pictures and post videos throughout the year, and hopefully I'll be able to funnel some of that content through here or through the aforementioned URL. If you've got questions about the program, my mission or anything at all, please leave 'em in the contents and I'll answer as best I can. Thanks for reading!