So, first off, my apologies for the extreme lack of updates. Life has been a little bit hectic, and blogging my experiences just didn’t seem right at the time. But, now I have a moment to breath and write, and explain what on earth I have been doing since Hurricane Sandy hit.
My first FEMA Corps round, my team was sent to New Jersey in response to Hurricane Sandy. We lived with all 21 teams from the Vinton campus in an army barracks, with 12 people to a room. There was a period where we ate MREs, I don’t like to remember that period, I don’t like that my food has a chance to outlive me, but maybe that’s just a personal preference. For most of November, my team worked in Community Relations. This means we went around New Jersey, going door to door, asking if people had registered for FEMA Assistance. While it was a stressful period, I’m glad I did it. It allowed me to really see the damage done by Hurricane Sandy, and meet the people affected. Around December, my team got switched back to what we are trained to do, work in Public Assistance. However, it wasn’t until Round Two that I really got to work.
For Round Two, we were told the not-so-shocking news that we would be sent back to New Jersey. Thankfully, we were able to get new housing arrangements, at an extended stay in Edison, NJ. With the shorter commute, and the addition of a kitchen, life was a lot less stressful in Round Two, not perfect, but more managable. I worked in the Debris section of Public Assistance. My role was to go out with a partner, and collect data on the Leaners, Hangers, and Stumps (aka trees) that were damaged by the disaster and would need to be removed. Thanks to this, I think I’ve found every park in Monmouth County, and I can add two celebrity houses to my NJ Star Map. It felt good to be useful, to know my work was helping someone else finish their work faster, and therefore a town could get the money they needed to get things back to the way they were. I also had some fun outside of work. Another team and mine planned a Community Day, a service day at the Palisades Interstate Park where we moved debris from a trail along the Hudson River. I also got to explore NYC, something I don’t do often enough while at home. But, all good things must come to an end, and mid-March we packed up our red bags and headed back to Vinton for transition.
Now for Round Three. About three weeks ago now, we headed off to Kansas City, Kansas/Missouri. I’m currently living in a town outside of the city, in another extended stay. This one is bigger, and in walking distance of trader joes and salvation army (heaven!). We’re still working in Public Assistance. While most of my team is working in closeouts (the final stage of projects), I’m working in Appeals. I love the work, it’s challenging and I learn something new with every one. Outside of work, we’ve been keeping busy every weekend. So far, we’ve seen the Nelson-Atkins Art Museum (which I’ve added to places I’d love to work) and gone to a Kite Festival (although there wasn’t quite enough wind for a festival). I also bought a cheap craigslist bike which allows me to get around a little faster and explore. We’ve also been keeping busy completing multiple Independent Service Projects (ISPs) each weekend. Luckily, this is the way I like it, as each weekend I get to go somewhere new, help people, and keep busy. The first weekend here, we planted a vegatable garden at transitional housing for homeless families and youth. This past weekend, we worked in a recycling center helping people learn which materials they can and cannot recycle (plastic caps are generally a no-no fyi). And this coming weekend, we will be either walking or working at EarthWalk and pulling out invasive species.
Which brings me to a shameless plug. This Saturday I will be walking at EarthWalk, which will help raise money for Bridging the Gap, an organization that promotes health enviromental practices, environmental education, and sustainability in Kansas City. My goal is to raise $200, and I’ve gotten $125 so far. Any donation helps, even a dollar can go a long way in making a difference. Here’s the link: www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/JenSchollin/2013 . Even if you can’t give, forwarding on that link could be a huge help as well.
Shameless plug, complete. 🙂
Hopefully, I was able to successfully sum up my experiences so far. As always, if you have any questions, feel free to ask me. There are many aspects of this program that are easier to talk about than write, like the ups and downs of living in a team of eleven, or adjusting to calling an extended stay home.
Until next time,