What I Made in FEMA Corps

Two days ago, the first inaugural class of AmeriCorps*NCCC – FEMA Corps, Class XIX based out of Vicksburg, MS, graduated from the 10 month, national service program.  During graduation, several speakers, including NCCC National Director, Kate Raftery and FEMA Deputy Administrator, Rich Serino, challenged us to rethink how we reflected upon our experiences in this program.

Mrs. Raftery asked us the simple question, “What did you make this year?”

It would be easy to put the answer to this question into numbers.  As a Team Leader, I made about $10,000 ($15,500 if you include the education award).  Corps Members made slightly less (right around $10,000 if you include the education award).  It isn’t much when you think about it.

With a requirement of 1,700 hours, this equates to less than a dollar an hour.  Add in $4.75 a day for food and you are still living under the poverty limit.  Of course, this doesn’t take into account that housing and uniforms are paid for.

But the answer isn’t that simple.  You cannot equate this experience into dollar amounts and leave it as that.  There is so much more to this experience that when we walk away from this year, we are all changed.

This year, my team, Ocean 7, participated in the response to Super Storm Sandy, working alongside FEMA staff and reservists at Disaster Recovery Center (DRC) 9 in Rockaway Park, NY, where we assisted hundreds of survivors each day.  We helped to canvas neighborhoods in Queens, NY and found ourselves in Staten Island pulling up applicant cases and files.  We found ourselves working at the Emergency Management Institute in Emmitsburg, MD, participating in Functional Exercises, editing FEMA courses, and ensuring that individuals were entered into the system to receive credit for their courses taken.

Over these past ten months, we touched so many lives.  Hundreds of thousands were served in response to Sandy.  The way FEMA operated changed.  We brought a new perspective to emergency management.

We made a difference.

Mr. Serino reminded us of how much our presence has shaped and reshaped FEMA.  Our voices were heard and we charged headlong into the unknown to create a better tomorrow.  Our efforts have produced new policies and transformed a workplace that didn’t know what or who we were.

We made a difference in the lives of all those we touched.  From the survivors of Hurricane Isaac and Super Storm Sandy to the FEMA personnel that we had the privilege of working alongside, the members of FEMA Corps moved people.  It wasn’t always easy, but it was an adventure that none of us will ever forget.

Now, as all the CMs have departed campus and returned to the world that they once knew, we ask ourselves “What did you make this year?”

Personally, I made a difference in the lives of the 10 CMs who I had the privilege of serving beside (the 7 who graduated and the 3 who departed the program).  I made myself a better person for staying, for refusing to throw in the towel when everything seemed to be falling apart.  I helped to create leaders who will change our world.

It wasn’t always fun, nor was it what any of us expected, but in the end we survived and made it through to another day.  Another year.  Another adventure.

I cannot thank my team enough, without them, I would not be here.  They have been my rock and my frustration, and I love each and every single one of them.

God Bless and PEACE

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1 Comment »

  1. Brett Said:

    Congratulations on completing the year! One of my sons will complete FEMACorps this week and another started a few months ago and will complete his service in November.


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