Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Into the Aftermath


"Go into the world and do well. But more importantly, go into the world and do good. "
~ Minor Myers, Jr.


Shane and his team, Bayou 6, along with their Unit Leader at their
graduation in June 2013
When people ask me, “Why did you decide to serve with FEMA Corps?”, I tell them about responding to Superstorm Sandy in New York City during late fall 2012.

My reasons for service upon joining the program were vague. I wanted a new experience, to serve communities, and to spend time outside of my home state of Massachusetts. After Sandy struck through, I realized the full value of FEMA Corps member's service, and how the program gave me what I was truly looking for in a service experience.
 
Louisiana Street in Long Beach, NY;
above in Nov. 2012, below in July 2013
Sandy hit the East Coast in early November 2012, only two months into the FEMA Corps program, and during my team’s first service project. My team, Bayou 6, was serving in West Virginia in response to a disaster that had struck earlier that summer. I first heard about Superstorm Sandy when one of my corps members showed me a picture of an entire parking lot full of taxis completely submerged underwater. I knew immediately we would be heading that way soon. We were excited to head to New York City to assist with SuperStorm Sandy relief efforts, but we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. 

 
Our first day in New York was chaotic. All 21 FEMA Corps teams from the Southern Region had bunked in Maryland at the Atlantic Region campus for the night, before traveling the rest of the way into New York. We left the Atlantic Region campus at 6:00am to make our way to FEMA’s Initial Operating Facility in Brooklyn. Many thoughts were running through my mind on that drive. What’s it going to be like there? Will buildings still be standing?  How will my team react to the work? Will I be able to effectively lead my team amid chaos and confusion?  All of these questions would be answered before the day ended, but that morning I remember catching a glimpse of the NYC skyline and hoping I had what it would take to lead my team and assist the thousands of survivors in need of aid.

Michigan Street in Long Beach, NY;
above in Nov. 2012, below in July 2013

After receiving our assignment in Brooklyn, we slowly drove our 15-passenger van through flooded streets to what would be our project site for the next six weeks, the small beach town of Long Beach, NY. 


I will never forget the drive to Long Beach, and the images that remain imprinted in my mind as we made our way to the center of town. After getting through security check points and road blocks, the reality of the destruction set in. A lot of people were going to need our help. Everywhere we looked, homes were destroyed. Debris covered every surface. Side streets were impassable because of debris and giant piles of sand washed in from the beach. Long Beach’s main street reminded me of a ghost town in the Wild West. The street was void of people, and the wind was still blowing sand and debris all around. Looking at my team, I could sense their urgency and knew they were ready to get to work. For the remainder of the day, we canvased the main streets providing information and directing survivors to food, water, and sheltering locations.

Shane with his team, Bayou 6, assisting survivors register
for aid at a DRC in Long Beach, NY
After a week of providing information to survivors door-to-door, we were re-assigned to a Disaster Recovery Center (DRC) in a centralized Long Beach location, where we assisted survivors in registering for disaster aid and answered their questions. 
 

The Empire State, docked in the East River
 in the Bronx, New York
We spent every day those first weeks traveling from our housing (a military ship docked in the East River) to Long Beach, and worked between 10-12 hours daily. Every survivor we assisted had a story, and most people had lost almost all of their belongings. Many were living with friends and family or staying in shelters or hotels. In those weeks we meet hundreds of survivors, listening to their stories and sharing in their losses. Those days are the ones I will carry with me.

 

 

Shane working with the Long Beach DRC manager
Responding to Superstorm Sandy in those initial weeks changed the way I view the world. Each day, I saw myself growing as a leader and as a person. I had to push myself outside of my comfort zone, carrying the responsibility not only of assisting survivors, but also for my team and their needs. We supported each other during that time, throughout the year, and they are like a second family to me today. I met some incredible people and lifelong friends during my time in FEMA Corps, and would serve again without hesitation.

 
Bayou 6 enjoying a hike in West Virginia
My FEMA Corps experience helped me to discover a passion for emergency management, which has led me to a career working with FEMA. I am forever grateful for FEMA Corps, and look forward to hearing the stories and experiences of future teams as the program continues to grow and evolve. 

Why did I decide to serve with FEMA Corps? I now know that I hoped to make even a small difference in the world. FEMA Corps helped me to do just that, and inspires me to continue working to make a difference and get things done every day.


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

On the Road

“What is that feeling when you’re driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? – it’s the too-huge world vaulting before us, and it’s goodbye.  But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.”  --Jack Kerouac


Jody's team reppin' the A at their
recyling center project
When I boarded a plane last October for Denver, CO, I had no idea what was ahead of me.  22 years old and a Bachelor’s degree in my pocket, I still felt as lost as a 5-year-old on the first day of kindergarten.  Every day that went by another person made it their personal duty to quiz me on what my plans for the next 50 years were.  Most of my friends had already chosen to spend more money on graduate school, and it felt as if the entire world was demanding that I settle down at a 9-5 job with health benefits.

And I wanted none of it.

All my life, I’ve had itchy feet and continents on my mind.  The one thing I knew for sure upon graduating college was that I needed to GO.  After 17 years of school, I wanted to finally stop sitting and start moving.  Where I would move to?  How I would do it?  No idea.  But the wanderlust inside me desperately needed to chase the horizon. 

On impulse, I applied to AmeriCorps NCCC and said yes.  It sounded like the best adventure possible: getting paid to travel around the country helping people. 


Jody's team, Earth 4
Upon my arrival in Denver, I quickly learned that common roots do not exist in NCCC.  Each person comes from a different place, background, and lifestyle.  For better or worse, 8-12 of these seemingly mismatched young people are then crammed into a 15 passenger van and sent off to assist communities across the nation.  For the next 10 months, these Corpsmembers will eat, live, work, sleep, and breathe together as a team.  Although this much contained diversity may sound like a disaster, common roots do not actually need to exist for NCCC teams to work.  All that is needed is a common purpose. 

And we have that. 


Jody and her 'roommate'
on spike in Austin, TX
Whether sleeping in tents, bunkhouses, church basements, cabins, or on gym floors.  Whether digging holes, installing drywall, helping a 5th grader with homework, picking up trash, or filing someone’s taxes.  Whether vegetarian or omnivore, country music or classic rock, driver or passenger.  No matter how many varieties there are in personality or work, our mission of service is clear: Strengthen Communities, Build Leaders, Make a Difference.
Since I joined NCCC five months ago, I have served at a food pantry in CO, a nature preserve in TX, and a Boys and Girls Club in NM.  Some days the work has flown by, and some days the stressful moments have made it hard to recognize the importance of what I am doing. There are mornings that snow chains have to be put on the van in -10 degrees and you got zero sleep last night because your roommate snores. There are times when your teammate uses up the last of the toilet paper, you get stuck cleaning up everyone else's mess in the kitchen, and your team leader feels like your babysitter.

Driving through New Mexico
Those are the days you just want to put your head down, cry like a baby, quit and go home.
But instead, I have to put things in perspective and remember that whereas I have a home, many of the people I am serving in disaster relief just lost theirs.  While I have family members that love and support me, the teammate I am frustrated with comes from a broken home.  And even though the work I am doing is exhausting and emotionally draining, I am privileged to be able to give back.


Jody and her team, Earth 4
So far, my time with NCCC has been an incredible adventure.  Traveling with a team of peers has taught me more than I ever expected about my own strengths and weaknesses.   I've lived in multiple places, made life-long friends, and grown passionate about service work.  It's a liberating feeling to know I'm where I need to be and doing what I need to do.

When people ask me, I still do not have any kind of plan for the next 50 years of my life. But I do have an answer for right now:  I’m leaning forward and chasing after that next crazy venture beneath the skies!

Jody and her team leader in Austin, TX

Friday, April 4, 2014

AmeriCorps NCCC and FEMA Corps: Two years, eight projects, and one life changing experience - Part 2

Wondering what program is right for you? Today is part two of our series with Brittany, who served as an NCCC corps member out of the Southern Region, and a FEMA Corps team leader with the Southwest Region.

How different was it to serve as a corps member vs. a team leader?

There's no way you can compare the two. I always tell people that my corps member year was for self-discovery and adventure, and my team leader year was for professional development and growth.
 
FEMA Corps Alpine 2 team leader Brittany
The actual service was different. As a corps member, my service was pretty mission oriented, and as a team leader, my service was more team oriented. I was there to support my team first and the mission second. Coming straight from a corps member position, where I took so much pride in aiding the mission, it was sometimes difficult that I couldn’t be as involved in the mission as my members.
 
Support during both years also came in different forms and from different people. As a corps member, your team and team leader primarily provide that main level of support. As a team leader, you look to your fellow team leaders and campus staff for support.

I also had much more free time as a corps member than as a team leader. As a team leader, I was accountable for my entire team, and I had to be on my A-game all the time. You're not able to check out mentally when you're responsible for an entire team.
 
Overall, they are two totally different experiences, with different expectations and outcomes. One constant in both roles and programs is that they were both two of the absolute best years of my life.

What were some of your favorite things you did with your teams?

During NCCC, the most fun my team ever had together was sitting around a table and playing board and card games. We called ourselves grandmas, because most of us preferred to stay in rather than go out anywhere. We also had a Nintendo 64 and Nintendo Wii one of my teammates brought from home!
 
Some of our best times were had secluded from society in the middle of nowhere, just hanging out and decompressing after work. During our first round we were miles away from anywhere, in a camp in the woods. We grew incredibly close as a team because all we had to do was hang out, bond, and watch a ton of Seinfeld! Those are the times I will always remember most.
 


River 9 at Graduation in 2012


During Round 1 in FEMA Corps, one of my corps members found the whole team $8.00 tickets to the elite eight March Madness game between Michigan State and the Univ. of Florida, at Dallas Cowboys Stadium. We also went to Six Flags in Texas. Both were so much fun!
 
We always found really fun things to do or see in every place we were serving. We tried to see as much of the areas we were in as possible, such as an service learning trip to an Osteology museum in Oklahoma, and hiking trips in Colorado. We liked to see touristy things, so we would often take small stops on road trips. We made pit stops in Nashville, TN, Central High School in Little Rock, AK and the University of Notre Dame in IN, just to name a few. We also had a ton of foodies on our team, so we often ate very ethnic diverse foods, even when we cooked for ourselves. We got creative!

How did your service help you grow?

This program changed my life and its direction. I left home in 2012, and after two years of service, ended up a completely different person with a totally new outlook on life. I was pretty clueless as to what I wanted to do with my future before NCCC. Now I know that I want to be in a position where I can effect change and happiness in people’s lives. I have no expectations or limitations on what that could mean in terms of a career. I am open to many different opportunities, which I definitely credit to remaining AmeriCorps and “FEMA flexible.” As long as I stick to that, I will be happy.

I have seen so much of this country and its vastly diverse communities, many that I never knew about. I experienced new people and different cultures every day, and saw vast amounts and different types of disaster and destruction with my own eyes. I have been broken down and built back up in many ways. I have become noticeably stronger emotionally, and have gained confidence in the person I have grown to be. I have gained mediation skills and conflict resolution skills.



Meeting former Secretary of Homeland Securty Janet Nepolitano and former FEMA Deputy Administrator Rich Serino


Professionally, I have gained so many office skills, including professional demeanor. Thinking about me in an office setting before the program makes me cringe. I had no idea how to act professionally! It gave me my first real work experience outside of college, and a real sense of work ethic. I learned to be proud of my work, and wanted to make it the best I could. I had no idea how to use Microsoft Excel or Visio before FEMA Corps, and now I use them both every day.
 
I hold NCCC and FEMA Corps so incredibly close to my heart. I would recommend it to anyone looking for some direction, change, or just an adventure in their lives. This program provided me with direction in my own life, while also giving me a sense of freedom and adventure.

How has your service affected the path of your life?

I currently work for FEMA as a local hire in the recovery division for the Colorado Flooding of September 2013. I am part of the Mission Support team that supports the entire division in which I work. I am working in the same FEMA Joint Field Office I spent my last two months serving out of in FEMA Corps, and directly supervise a FEMA Corps team. Basically, it’s a dream job. I absolutely love what I do, and I am so happy that NCCC and FEMA Corps led me here.
 
My service has totally changed the path of my life. If I hadn’t joined, I guarantee I would still be waiting tables back home on Long Island, with no plans for the future. I would never have found the world of non-profits or FEMA. I have direction and purpose in my life. I am so happy I found and served in this program. College just wasn’t enough for me, and NCCC helped me to complete my journey from just-graduated kid, to adult with direction. I am so grateful for the invaluable effect the program has had on my life, the lives of others, and on this country.

Thank you Brittany for this week's blog series! If you have any questions about AmeriCorps NCCC or FEMA Corps, please visit www.americorps.gov, shoot us an email at anccc@cns.gov, or visit our Facebook page -http://on.fb.me/1mQ5xpN.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

AmeriCorps NCCC and FEMA Corps: Two years, eight projects, and one life-changing experience - Part 1

Wondering what program is right for you? Brittany served with both NCCC and FEMA Corps, and told us about her experinces this week. She served as an NCCC corps member out of the Southern Region, and a FEMA Corps team leader with the Southwest Region.

I was first introduced to AmeriCorps NCCC during my senior year of high school, when a classmate told me about a community service program she was serving with before attending college. My first thought  was “What the heck is AmeriCorps?” From that moment I learned about the program, I knew it was something I needed to be part of.

I had always been involved in organizations with strong member bonds and support, such as drama club and my college rugby team. I also knew I loved to make people happy. My parents had just moved away from my childhood home of Long Island, NY, and I needed to detach myself a bit. I knew that this was the perfect opportunity to find my life’s direction, and to challenge myself by entering into something blindly. I will never forget the day I received my acceptance email. I was at work waiting tables. I knew it was a long shot I would even get accepted, and suddenly I found out I would be traveling to Mississippi for a ten month adventure of a lifetime!  I knew from that moment on that my life had a bigger purpose.

My team's first project was at Camp High Road in Middleburg, VA, where we led diverse groups of campers (Boy and Girl Scouts, home school groups, special needs and at-risk youth, etc.) in high and low ropes team building challenge courses. We also helped prepare the camp for the upcoming summer season, and performed tasks like painting, weed whacking, cleaning cabins, and installing a fence for a horse field.

For our second project, we served at Second Harvest Food Bank of New Orleans, where the team assisted the food bank with their summer feeding program. We helped prepare, plate, and track over 6,000 meals per day for kids who would ordinarily be on the free lunch program. Over nine weeks, we served over 139,000 healthy meals to underprivileged kids!

Our third project was at Historic Westville, Inc. in Lumpkin, GA, a 1850s reenactment village. We helped completely renovate the museum's bathroom facilities, and provided a much needed facelift to the outside of an old house that would become a children’s educational center. We also spent three weeks at the University of Southern Mississippi’s Gulf Coast Research Laboratory in Ocean Springs, MS, where we cleared debris from six miles of trails left over from Hurricane Katrina, and created new connector trails. We cleared over 8,000 lbs. of trash in three weeks!
 
Our fourth project was all over the place! We spent our first week in Memphis, TN working with an organization that helped beautify inner-city Memphis through many local initiatives, including participation in art festivals and the upkeep of abandoned home properties to decrease trespassing and gang activity. After a week there, we were called back to the Mississippi Gulf Coast to work with a local religiously affiliated non-profit assisting with roof repairs, home damage assessments, mucking and gutting, and grant applications resulting from Hurricane Isaac. We were stationed in many towns up and down the Gulf Coast including: Bay St. Louis, Ocean Springs and Pass Christian, MS.
 
 
I was halfway through my NCCC corps member year when we met the inaugural class of FEMA Corps in Vicksburg. I wanted a well-rounded service experience and knew nothing about FEMA. I had never thought about any sort of future in emergency management, but had heard a lot about the program from FEMA Corps members. The program was still brand new, and there were many unknowns. However, the facts stood: I knew how strong I was in an administrative setting, and knew that I would be a strong team leader in such an environment. FEMA Corps was still national service and still an AmeriCorps NCCC program. It was another adventure where I could effect change, and get the chance to help people. I was interested from the get go, and I accepted the chance to serve as a team leader in Denver without hesitation.
 
While serving with FEMA Corps, my team worked out of Denton, TX completing Disaster Survivor Assistance training, and then helped to pilot this new program after the West, TX fertilizer plant explosion of April 2013. From there, we assisted survivors in registering for aid after the Moore, OK tornados in May 2013. We also worked in hazard mitigation in response to SuperStorm Sandy in Long Island, NY and deployed to the Colorado flooding in fall 2013.
 
What were your most memorable experiences while serving?

NCCC: While we were stationed in Ocean Springs, MS serving with the University of Southern Mississippi’s Gulf Coast Research Lab and Marine Biology Center, our supervisors offered us a thank you boat ride and tour of Horn Island, which is about eight miles off the coast. We got to experience a day in the life of a marine biologist, and learned a lot about marine life. We assisted catching and netting fish, and watched as dolphins followed our boat. We pet stingrays, ate lunch on a deserted beach, and played in crystal clear water. The team bonded so much that day, and after all of our hard work clearing trails, it was a great day-cation. It was such a memorable experience for me.

FEMA Corps:  Hands down the most memorable experience was our first disaster deployment. My team was deployed to West, TX after the fertilizer plant explosion that devastated the 2,800 person town. Our project was to pilot the newly created Disaster Survivor Assistance program, in which FEMA brings the disaster aid registration process to survivors through iPad technology.
 
This was our first glimpse into what I could only compare to a war zone, where we first stared into the eyes of people who had just lost everything. We encountered people well into their 90s who had lived in the same house their entire lives, and were forced to start over. Despite all of this, they were extremely positive. I can’t tell you how many times I heard “It could have been so much worse.” or “It’s just material, I still have my family”. Many times people would tell us they were standing on the pile of rubble that was once their home. It became real to all of us instantaneously. The people of West welcomed us right away, and seemed to really appreciate that we were young people dedicating time to serve their community.
 
Since the disaster was so confined, we had the opportunity to work one-on-one with FEMA staff in the field. We had an amazing FEMA supervisor who I still communicate with on a regular basis as a mentor.
 
We were also able to experience some of the amazing Czech culture in West. We learned simple phrases like děkuji (thank you), and ate Kolachies and Czech pastries for days!
 
In those initial 10 days, we all became a family. We walked into that experience with no idea of what to expect, and left with such amazing new perspectives on disaster areas and community. This experience really helped our team to come together for the first time.  
 
What was it like to serve for two consecutive years - one with NCCC and one with FEMA Corps?

When I say that traditional NCCC and FEMA Corps are different, I really mean it. They are two programs, with a common stucture and mission, serving on very different types of projects.
 
I never worked anything but an 8am-5pm schedule while serving with NCCC, and I think my team worked a normal 8am-5pm schedule only one out of the ten months in FEMA Corps. I spent the entire year in NCCC living on $4.75 a day, where eating out was a very rare treat. With FEMA Corps, because we were serving out of disaster areas, we had very limited kitchen access, and got pretty sick of eating out most days. I also felt like I lived a bit more minimally in NCCC for many reasons.
 
 
Of course there are the obvious differences as well: We had constant access to a laptop, internet, and a blackberry in FEMA Corps, whereas we walked a mile or drove to a Starbucks for Wi-Fi while in NCCC. It was normal to work with giant paint stains on our uniforms in NCCC, but in FEMA Corps we kept our uniforms neat and clean because we were in a professional setting.
 
The logistical differences are really astounding, but not as astounding as the differences in service. NCCC is very physically tiring, heavy lifting work much of the time, but I have never felt as physically and mentally exhausted as I did after the first two weeks of a newly active disaster while serving with FEMA Corps. Working with non-profit organizations through NCCC is also completely different than working with a government organization like FEMA. There are more procedures to follow in FEMA Corps on the FEMA side, including adhering to a double chain of command (NCCC and FEMA).

Check back tomorrow for the rest of our conversation with Brittany - she'll explain the differences between serving as a member vs. a team leader, how NCCC and FEMA Corps helped her to grow, and talk about what she's doing now.
 

 

Friday, March 28, 2014

#femacorpsfriday - Where Are They Now?

Every #femacorpsfriday in March, we'll be profiling former FEMA Corps members - asking them why and where they served, and what they've been doing since graduation. If you're interested in learning more about FEMA Corps after reading their stories, visit www.americorps.gov, or send your questions to anccc@cns.gov.


This week we're talking with Katy, a FEMA Corps alum from the Southern Region, who served last year with FEMA Corps as a Community Relations Specialist, and is now serving with the AmeriCorps Public Allies program in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Where are you from and what were you doing before serving with FEMA Corps?
 
I'm originally from Onalaska, Wisconsin, and before I began my term of service with NCCC FEMA Corps, I completed my B.A. in Sociology from the University of Wisconsin Eau-Claire. Shortly after graduation I went down to Guatemala for a summer internship, which I cut short once I found out I had been accepted to NCCC FEMA Corps.

Why did you decide to join FEMA Corps?

Well, like many corps members from the inaugural class, I was routed to FEMA Corps through the standard NCCC application. When I was informed about the existence of FEMA Corps, and given the opportunity to join, I thought to myself- “Why not?”.  I had always been interested in disasters/crisis situations,  emergency response, and helping people- all things FEMA Corps seemed to address. In the end, it was about the term of service and giving back. As long as I was doing that I was interested.

What is one of your most memorable FEMA Corps experiences?

My most memorable experience would have to be responding to Superstorm Sandy. It’s hard to pick out one moment in particular- but the first day of our arrival was very intense. My team, Ocean 5, was sent to one of the hardest hit areas: Long Beach. After canvassing and assessing, we came to realize the extent of damage and how it affected the community. Up until then our disaster experience was very limited, but it wasn’t long till we were working in DRCs and directly assisting survivors.

What was your favorite area to serve in?

This is a tricky one! I really did enjoy every area I served in, and they were all very different with their pros and cons- from Minden, Louisiana to Long Island, New York. Having the opportunity to travel around the United States was definitely a highlight of this program for me, even if it all had to be done with our 15 passenger van.

What was the most challenging part of your service experience?

In general, I’d say the hardest part of my service experience was learning how to not get sucked into what was happening around me. Whether that was other people’s attitudes, or the hardships faced by those affected by the disaster. Even working with an agency as big and well funded as FEMA, there was only so much we could do for people- which was hard to reconcile with.






Where are you currently serving? What do you do there?

I am currently involved in another AmeriCorps Program, called Public Allies. I am serving through the Twin Cities branch of Public Allies, which operates out of Minneapolis, Minnesota. Through Public Allies I was placed with the American Red Cross at the Twin Cities Chapter- also located in Minneapolis, MN. I work in the Emergency Services department, focusing primarily on recovery efforts for clients affected by natural disasters. I am also involved in the response side of the Red Cross, coordinating and assisting our top notch team of volunteer responders.  

How have you applied the skills and experiences you gained while serving with FEMA Corps to your position with the American Red Cross?

I think an easier question to answer would be how HAVEN’T I used my FEMA Corps experience at the Red Cross, because every day I work in disasters situations. That being said, I’d say starting out with a background in processes and operations within an emergency management agency has been vital in my success with the Red Cross and really gave me a leg up in this field.




Do you have any advice for folks applying to serve with FEMA Corps and/or currently serving FEMA Corps members?

Advice for those applying or currently serving in the FEMA Corps program- be open and be supportive. Be open to learning to new things, having new experiences, meeting new people, and making new friends. And most of all, look out for those around you- your teammates, fellow corps members, and even team leaders. But don’t forget to take care of yourself!  





Friday, March 21, 2014

#femacorpsfriday - Where Are They Now?

Every #femacorpsfriday in March, we'll be profiling former FEMA Corps members - asking them why and where they served, and what they've been doing since graduation. If you're interested in learning more about FEMA Corps after reading their stories, visit www.nationalservice.gov, or send your questions to anccc@cns.gov.

This week we're talking with Jordan, a FEMA Corps alum from the Southern Region, who served last year with FEMA Corps as a Community Relations Specialist, and now works with FEMA in the Disaster Survivor Assistance program.

Where are you from, and what were you doing before serving with FEMA Corps?
 
 
I am from Escondido, California, and before FEMA Corps, I was getting my bachelor's degree in Psychology at the University of California-San Diego.
 
Why did you decide to join FEMA Corps?
At the time I wanted to spend a year helping others before going to graduate school. I applied for AmeriCorps NCCC and was offered a position within the, at the time brand new, FEMA Corps program. It seemed like an interesting concept, so I joined.
 
What is one of your most memorable FEMA Corps experiences?
 
My first time to New York City was directly after Hurricane Sandy. I will never forget the incredible mix of awe at the city itself and horror at the damage the storm caused.
 
                                                                What was your favorite area to serve in?
 
I had the pleasure of working in amazing places all around the country. Each was unique and amazing for different reasons. I think I enjoyed the great amount of travelling and vast variety of places combined together most of all rather than any one place in particular.
 
What was the most challenging part of your service experience?
 
The most challenging part of my service experience was also one of the most rewarding. The long hours with few days off in response to hurricane Sandy was the most physically, mentally and emotionally draining times of my life. However, it was also definitely the most rewarding, and I have never regretted the hardships.
 


What did you learn while serving with FEMA Corps that helped you to land a full-time job with FEMA?
 
While in FEMA Corps I had the privilege of working with a wide variety of amazing FEMA employees.  Getting to know them and learning from their experiences was fantastic. The greatest thing I learned was the ability to learn and adapt based off the knowledge and advice of other people with more experience than myself.

What is your current position with FEMA, and what does that job entail?
 
My current position is within Recovery Operations under Recovery Operations and Readiness Coordination. At the moment, most of our time is spent in the development and improvement of FEMA’s Disaster Survivor Assistance program.

Since working with FEMA, how have you applied the skills and experiences you gained while serving with FEMA Corps?
 
My work with FEMA Corps has given me invaluable field experience which I am able to use in my current work. I also had the privilege of working within my current work group while I was in FEMA Corps. This created a wonderful work environment with great people that I was able to easily transfer into my current work environment.
 
Do you have any advice for folks applying to serve with FEMA Corps and/or currently serving FEMA Corps members?

The most important thing to understand is that there will be hard times in this program. Understand this and decide that you will make it through no matter what. Yes, the living conditions may be rough. Yes, you will be making very little money. Yes, you will occasionally get tired and annoyed with constantly being around the same people for ten months. Yes, you will be working long hours with few days off at times. However, for all the bad there is much more good to come from this. You will  have the rewards of helping survivors recover. You will have selflessly given ten months of your life for the greater good of putting others above yourself. You will have made lifelong friends and crazy fun memories. In the end, it will be the fantastic experiences you remember rather than the hardships you faced.

Thanks for sharing your story Jordan! Next week we'll hear from Katy, who served with FEMA Corps, and is now completing a second year of service with the American Red Cross, through the AmeriCorps Public Allies program.
 
Brought to you by AmeriCorps NCCC, a program of the Corporation for National and Community Service.
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