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?
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!