It sure has been a long time since this blog was updated! Well, this year I aim to bring this blog back to life with the help of the New Orleans NPRC team. Hopefully we will have guest bloggers from the other Louisiana teams as well!
Let me start by introducing myself. My name is Carolanne and I’m the Volunteer Specialist for Southeast Louisiana. I am also the supervisor for the New Orleans NPRC team. I started shortly before our most recent term and I’ve been learning a lot. I grew up in New Jersey (North, if you’re from the state) and earned a degree in Social Work from a small college there. I came to New Orleans on a relief trip and fell in love with the city. I worked with the St. Bernard Project and discovered the world of AmeriCorps. In 2011 I became an AmeriCorps NCCC (National Civilian Community Corps) Member for Class XVII. My campus was located in Perry Point, Maryland. The first time I responded to a disaster was as a Corps Member- a tornado in Springfield, Massachusetts. I fell in love with emergency management and response. After my term, I changed it up a little and spent a year working with delinquent teenagers in California. I then spent a second year in AmeriCorps NCCC, this time as a Team Leader for the brand new FEMA Corps. I was based in the Southern Region (Vicksburg, Mississippi). Being a TL for the first class of FEMA Corps in the nation was the most stressful, difficult year I’ve ever had, but I would do it again in a second. The things I learned and experienced that year are invaluable. My team worked many disasters, starting with Hurricane Isaac, followed by Hurricane Sandy and six winter storms, then finally ending with the Boston Marathon bombings. I graduated in June of 2013, moved to New Orleans and started working for the Red Cross.
I’m a new supervisor. It’s a learning process, I know. Sometimes I don’t know exactly what I’m doing or I mess up my wording or I’m unsure of myself. I’m quick to remind my Corps Members that I’m new at this and ask for their patience. But I care a great deal about this program and believe in its benefits and its future. I love everything AmeriCorps and I’ve picked up a lot of Ameri-knowledge along the way. I love Days of Service and volunteering, so I want to give the team as many opportunities to get involved in New Orleans as possible. I know the tough parts of being an AmeriCorps Members so I try to stress out the Corps Members the least amount possible and give them as much time off to enjoy themselves as is realistic. I love personal development and team builders and even though I’m still learning the ins and outs of New Orleans myself, I want to encourage the NPRC Members to inflate their resumes and set themselves up for the future as much as they possibly can over their 11 months of service. I’m still working out the bugs of the program, learning about new projects and picking up ideas as I go, but I think that everyone reading this should consider joining the team. The team this year (I call them Class 1 in my head) and I are going to carve out a comfortable place for you. We’re already working on the details, the guides, the suggestions and the tips already!
It’s been a long, crazy 6 months since I started. I’m incredibly proud of the New Orleans Corps Members (and the other 7 members in Louisiana) and I feel lucky to be part of this chapter. Like any job, there are challenges. Sometimes I feel like I’m going in blind since I’m just as new to NPRC as the members this year, but I think that we’re a good team. At first everything was training and shadowing, but now they’re leading dispatch for our Disaster Action Team, getting great feedback while deployed on disaster, giving pillowcase presentations to local students, and founding / running College Clubs. I absolutely believe that this group is going to leave their mark for the next term, which is will be strong, better and more fun than any before. Below I’m going to share a few (of what are my favorite) highlights of the first half of the year.
If you have any questions about the program, are in search of the right AmeriCorps experience for you, want to know more about the city, or just want to say hello, I encourage you to reach out to us. You can get in touch with me by phone at (504) 620-3182 or through e-mail at Carolanne.Fernandez@RedCross.org. You can follow the team on Facebook at http://www.Facebook.com/nprcLA.
Highlights (in no particular order):
1) The team came back with tons of stories and friendships from their week in Washington, D.C., where they met all of the other new NPRC members from across the country.
2) Sleeping on cots in a conference room of the Baton Rouge office for the 2nd week of training. It was great eating together, bonding and doing the kind of ice breakers that end up with at least 2 people in tears.
3) Our first Day of Service- the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. We got together with Baton Rouge and helped repaint a house in the city. Shuniqua (the Volunteer Specialist in Baton Rouge and supervisor of the BR team) and I presented everyone with gold AmeriCorps shirts with the logo in the middle of the chest (like a superhero). Our pictures that day are bright and cheery!
4) Deploying to Colorado. That was long and complicated time, but well worth it. I responded with 2 CMs from NOLA and 2 CMs from BR. It was beautiful there. I will always remember the moment when Amanda and I walked out of the Denver airport and took our first breath of crisp, clear air in three months (no offense, New Orleans). We day off in the Rocky Mountain National Park is my favorite day.
5) Our Introduction to Humanitarian Law class. I’m sure not everyone feels so great about it, but I found it amazing! Long discussions about our duty as citizens and as countries, about controversial topics and what the Red Cross was founded on (and how those roles have adapted since)? Sign me up!
6) Becoming a certified Red Cross Chapter with the Corporation for National and Community Service and the Points of Light Institute! Now I can present our Corps Members with the President’s Volunteer Service Award (http://www.presidentialserviceawards.gov/index.cfm).
7) My first DAT response (I was shadowing with Julie). It was eye-opening.
8) My first time as a DAT dispatcher. I feel like I understand the role of NPRC so much better now. It’s a hard job and I have a lot of respect for the team!
6) Looking forward to future volunteer experiences (we try to do AT LEAST 1 a month). This month we’re partnering with the Coalition to Preserve Coastal Louisiana and taking boats deep into Jean Lafitte National Park to plant trees. Next month we’re participating in a Kaboom! build here in New Orleans.
7) Learning to drive the ERV. Thomas took us on what I can only call an obstacle course through the city- from the pot-hole filled roads on the outskirts of the city to the highway where people don’t use their blinkers to driving down Bourbon Street, full of people and cars parked on both sides of the road. It was scary but I am much more comfortable behind the wheel of an ERV now and know that I could take it anywhere in the city if we need to canteen.
8) Baking 20 dozen cookies with Amanda, Julie and Ursula for our annual Cookie Drop (a project organized by NPRC in which we thank our city’s firefighters by delivering cookies to all 31 fire stations). We made them FROM SCRATCH!
9) Bringing some life to the Volunteer Services side of the office with photos, charts and maps! It’s much homier now =]
10) Finally taking the chapter’s intake queue down to 1 page (this is a personal one, but it’s too exciting now to share)!!!! Now Julie is helping me clear up the groups. It’s not very exciting but it immensely satisfying once you’re finished.