Hi blog fans! Sorry that it’s been so so so long since my last blog post. It’s been a rocky 2 months.
When I last updated ya’ll, I was working in Montgomery County, Texas outside of Houston doing some Disaster Survivor Assistance work. I was going door to door helping register people for Federal assistance and ensuring that everyone’s essential needs were being met. We were assigned to a fantastic crew that we learned from every day, and built even stronger relationships with. One of the reservists I worked with has also offered me the opportunity to volunteer on her farm in Puerto Rico after the program. I was also able to catch up with my dear friend, Jillian, who I met while studying abroad in Austria. Although the flooding in Texas was unfortunate, I am so thankful that I was able to reunite with her.
When I also last updated ya’ll, our original 9 people were still here. We had had some leadership issues beginning in Round 1, that only continued to get worse throughout round 2. It got to the point where our team could no longer handle this constant burden, and we had no other choice but to bring the issue to higher ups. In return, our Team Leader resigned, and we were given a new Team Leader. It’s hard to lose a member that has been with your team for 5 months. Overall, if we did not make the decision we made, we would not have graduated. As hard of a decision as it was, it needed to be done for our own sanity. We have spent the last month trying to catch up on graduation requirements that we were unaware we were missing. We also had to get our hours corrected. It’s been a stressful and hectic time catching up with all this work, and we’ve had to schedule some team morale trips into our schedule as well. So yeah, you could say I’ve been pretty busy this round. I know our team is very thankful for this change, and to have a leader that is pushing us to succeed not only in the program, but with our personal goals as well.
After working DSA in Montgomery, Texas, we were redeployed to Fort Worth, Texas to work in the Distribution Center. Here, we were fork lift certified in both stand-up and sit-down forklifts. I’m not sure when I’ll ever use this skill outside of the program, but if you ever need someone to raise a palette 30 feet in the air, or if you ever need someone that’ll almost knock over all of the racks of commodities with the forklift, you know who to call! The work we had done at the Distribution Center is part of the Logistics Cadre of FEMA. We handled the packing, shipping, and refurbishing of different commodities. The work wasn’t ideal, personally. We worked in a warehouse, that is not air conditioned, and is hotter than the weather outside (it has been in the 100’s this summer). If you know me at all, you know how crabby I get when I’m hot. So you can probably tell how much I was enjoying the warehouse work. The people we worked with at the warehouse were genuinely very nice people. We learned so much from them, and I have so much more respect for this field of work after working there.
We were supposed to be heading to Sacramento for our transition to Round 3, where we would have been working with the American Red Cross in Santa Ana, California, helping the community and children in preparation for forest fires. A couple days before we were supposed to be leaving for Sacramento, we received an emergency phone call at night, stating that we were needed to leave the next morning at 5 am to check into the Joint Field Office in Baton Rouge. The flooding that Baton Rouge is experiencing is the worst natural disaster since Hurricane Sandy. It’s really hard being so close to leaving the South, and then getting news that you are being redeployed. The people in Louisiana need us way more than you can imagine. We had to pack up all our bags, pack the van, get our driving route from Fort Worth to Baton Rouge, pack up all our groceries, and head to bed for a very tiring morning, and even more exhausting weeks to come.
We have been living in Lafayette, Louisiana and commuting to different areas of East Baton Rouge Parish. We have worked in two different shelters and in the Baton Rouge Sheriff department. The flooding is devastating. There are over 10,000 people still living in shelters. I have personally talked to people that have had their whole house underwater. I’ve listened to stories on stories of people being evacuated by boat, unsure where they will live, or how they will support their loved ones. My team and I have registered many of these people for possible FEMA assistance, while also referring them to Whole Community Partners and Voluntary Organizations. We are currently working 12 hour days, 7 days a week. It’s hard being down here. Seeing the water lines unbelievably high, and knowing that these survivors lives are forever changed. We have walked survivors through the steps of FEMA, the SBA loan, and I hope, we have given these survivors enough information to get back on their feet with a little less stress. There are stories that will stick with me for years after this program ends. I remember registering a very sweet woman, very positive, despite having water up to her roof. In the middle of the registration, she began to cry, as she just realized in that moment that her brothers ashes were in the house, and that they are now underwater. She had no friends and no family, and she told me she feels so much more alone now that her house is destroyed. I’ll be honest, I feel so incredibly unhelpful. I wish I could do something more to help these people. I urge anyone that is reading my blog, to please donate to some credible sources. The American Red Cross has been working day and night to help these survivors.
Our transition has been cancelled, and we have been extended at least another 30 days on this disaster. I am not sure how long we will be down in Baton Rouge, and I am not sure where we will go after.
This program. It’s weird. Some weeks fly by. Other weeks feel like a century. There are days that I’m so over the program, and other days when I don’t want the program to end. There are days that I feel like I’ll never see the prairie state again (which, I wouldn’t really mind, honestly). There are days that this program is just what I expected. Other days this program is nothing like I expected.
We have two and a half more months left in this program, and I am curious what else will be thrown our way. I know my team and I will persevere through it all, and the finish line is coming up fast.