What a Game Changer..

“So, change of plans. We’re heading to Louisiana to help with the flooding instead of going to Texas.”

Wait…what?

Let me back it up for you. This past week has been one of the longest weeks of my life. From our 6 hour drive from Sacramento to San Luis Obispo, to our 8 hour DSA training days, there hasn’t been much time for rest and not much alone time. The only time I’m completely alone is while showering, so it’s an interesting change. In SLO, we were lodging at an active military base camp. Our dorm room held 20 girls all sleeping in beds, in a row, in one room. I obviously wouldn’t prefer to be staying there, with set eating times, a curfew, in a gated area that feels like prison… But beggars can’t be choosers. We would spend our days preparing for the work we thought we’d be doing in Denton, Texas. Buuuuut Surprise, surprise.

Throughout all of our trainings, we have heard the words , “FEMA Flexible.” And that’s exactly what we’re demonstrating now. We thought we’d be working in the regional FEMA office in Denton, Texas where we mapped out the routes, hotels, pit stops, and did all our team research on. But right before leaving, we were thrown the curveball that instead, Baton Rouge, Louisiana needs us more. So back to the drawing board with our team planning. Louisiana is going through some of the worst flooding they’ve had in 21 years. We will be going door to door to help the survivors get assistance from FEMA, as well as refer them to other resources for help. We’re all excited to actually be doing work in our field, because in Denton we would have most likely just stayed in the office all day doing different field work than we were trained on.  To say I’m terrified is a little bit of an understatement. As much training as I’ve had, it’s still a tad bit worrisome to know that we are basically acting as first responders to these survivors that are going through legitimately the worst day of their lives. But at the same time, it’s empowering and beyond rewarding to know that I may give someone the reason to smile on the worst day of their life. I’m part of a program so much bigger than myself, and I’m so excited to see where this program takes me after the 10 months.

Aside from all the FEMA training, San Luis Obispo was absolutely beautiful. I had the opportunity to do some hiking through the mountains for incredible views. I was also able to freeze my feet  in the Pacific Ocean in Pismo Beach. In the bigger spectrum of things, FEMA training has been rough…really rough. But I’ve been able to do and see so many incredible things already, and it’s only a month in. I’ve met such inspiring and interesting people. I’ve learned such abstract information. && Ive been eager to show off my new found skills. Though it still feels like I’m at a summer camp just hanging around, stuff is about to get real…real fast.

Right now I’m currently making my way to Louisiana with my team in our 15-passenger van. Im sandwiched in the back row of the van, surrounded by my team, blasting some throw back music between driving and taking naps. We just took a detour through the Painted Desert by Flagstaff, Arizona as we make our way to Albuquerque, New Mexico for the night. We’ll spend the next night in Wichita Falls, Texas before traveling the rest of the way to Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

If you could do one thing for me, keep the people of Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi, New Jersey, and all the others that are being impacted by this disaster, in your thoughts and prayers.

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Hiking in San Luis Obispo.

A Day In The Life

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FEMA Induction Day! 

 

So, I’m writing a blog. This is a first, so please bare with me. If you’re just starting here, you’ve missed 22 years of past adventures…but that doesn’t matter too much for this. About three weeks ago, I traded my routine Midwest life for the adventure of a lifetime in Sunny Sacramento. This new journey is about to be the most exhausting, ever changing, and most rewarding experience I’ll probably ever experience.

The biggest question I have received in these past few weeks is: “Wait, so like…..what exactly are you doing in McClellan, California, 2,019 miles away from home?”

Well, I am serving a year as a corps member with Americorps NCCC-FEMA Corps. Now that’s quite the mouthful. Let me break it down for you. My team is Green 6 (GREEEEEN SQUAAAAD…YOU KNOW!) and I could not be happier. Over the course of the year, I will be serving on a team with eight other young adults between the ages of 19-24 years old. My team is driven, witty, hilarious, sarcastic, caring, and most of all, my family, for the next 10-months. Together, we will be working as Disaster Survivor Assistance specialists as we go door-to-door to register survivors for assistance. We’re a joint program between Americorps NCCC and FEMA, mostly working in disaster preparedness, response, and recovery programs throughout the U.S. (To learn more, go to: Nationalservice.gov)

The second biggest question I have received is, “So….what did you do today?”

Currently, I am finishing up the first few weeks of training before we head to San Luis Obispo tomorrow for some more FEMA specialized training, and then, we deploy to our first assignments. My first assignment location just so happens to be Denton, Texas! It has been the absolute longest three weeks of my life in the best way possible. I’ll give you a glimpse of what a typical day of Corps member Training Institute looks like.

5:00 am- Alarm goes off. Press snooze.
5:15 am- Roommate #1’s alarm goes off. Press snooze.
5:30 am- Roommate #2’s alarm goes off. Press snooze.
5:45 am- All three alarms go off. We all gather our warmest workout clothes, PT Belt, and brave the outside for PT.
6:00-6:45- PT. This involves running, stairs, sprints, miles, yoga, belly dancing…there are a lot of different activities depending on the day, but it’s catered so that everyone can get a good workout at their own physical pace.
6:45-7:45 am- Our hectic rushing to the shower (we share a bathroom with 4 other girls), eating breakfast, packing lunches, making coffee, and cleaning up the kitchens.
7:45-8 am- Morning Welcome. This is when a staff member gives a speech to kick-start the day on a positive note.
8 am- 12 am- Training. Each day provides new and helpful information. Examples could be anything from diversity, to FEMA Basic training, to some sort of hands on team activity. Coffee and caffeine pills are recommended for this…I wish I was joking about the caffeine pills….but, sadly, I am not.
12 am- 1 pm- Lunch. We’re not allowed in the kitchens during training days, so this is when we eat our packed lunches. Or if you miss packing lunch like I do, this is when you head out for some California taco places: Aldabertos is a popular favorite.
1 pm-5 pm- Death by powerpoint continued.
5-8 pm- Dinner. Nap. Team meetings. Team grocery shopping. Depends on the day, and depends on schedule.
8-?- We spend this time winding down, squeezing in personal time, and talking to friends and family back home.
5 am- Alarm goes off. Press snooze.

So, you could say that these past three weeks have been eye-opening, challenging, exhausting beyond belief, and over all absolutely incredible. There’s something so thrilling to be thrown into a random team with people from 4 different time zones. Different cultures.  Different walks of life. Different views. I might be biased in saying this, but I think I luckily got the best team. We’ve brought out the strengths in each team member, and we’re working towards getting rid of the weaknesses. So no, I don’t get much sleep. I don’t get much free time. I don’t get much space. And no, I wouldn’t change a thing about it. I’m on this crazy roller coaster we call Amerilife, and I am so excited to see where this new adventure takes me. Next stop: San Luis Obispo and then we’re off to Denton, Texas to show off what Green 6 is made of!

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Weekend Trip To San Francisco