I haven’t been able to put up a post this week because we’ve spent the last 4 days out in the Redwood Forrest at Camp Mendocino. We spent our time helping develop parts of the camp. It’s set about 25 miles in from the coast in Northern California and the scenery is absolutely beautiful. It takes you a good 20 minutes winding through dirt mountain roads off of the main road until you finally make it to the camp. When we first arrived we met with our Project Sponsor who gave us a brief tour of the camp grounds. He told us that the Boys and Girls Club of San Francisco owns about 2000 acres of land out there and it serves as a summer camp for underprivileged urban youth who otherwise would be unable to experience life in the outdoors. The staff is made up of absolutely amazing people who seem to really love what they’re doing. It’s quite refreshing.
After the tour we set out to find the big tree on their grounds. Since the camp is located on the southern edge of the Redwood Forrest there are HUGE trees scattered around the premises. Unfortunately when we finally did find the big tree there was a bees hive occupying it that did not like us being there. One of the Team Leaders was on the unfortunate receiving end of a bunch of very upset bees. In the end she must have been stung a good 20-30 times. After the initial shock wore off and we got her some benadryl things settled down. We really haven’t had a great opportunity as Team Leaders to really get to know each other and we were all very excited to get that chance at Camp Mendocino.
After dinner we did some team building and played the “Newly Unit Game,” our take on the newlywed game but with our units. It was a great time to be had by all. We then made a big campfire because it was way too cold outside and because campfires are fun. What other reasons do you need? After about an hour of singing and smores one of the returnnig Team Leaders came to us with some very serious news. As you may or may not know American Samoa is an American territory and was hit by an 8.0 earthquake a few days ago as well as a tsunami. American Samoa is also in the Pacific Region for NCCC. So in the middle of our great campfire where we were all bonding we get told that the earthquakes have been declared a National Emergency and the Red Cross has asked us to respond to the disaster. At first the staff said we wouldn’t be able to help because we’re in Team Leader Training but then after thinking it over they decided that all the people that have already gone through the disaster relief training (the returning members) were eligible to respond while all of us newbies were to stay back and finish our training and take care of CTI.
Needless to say it came as quite a shock to all of us. In the end 15 of our Team Leaders were going to be flying out to American Samoa to help respond to an earthquake and tsunami and working with the Red Cross. They’re going to be out there for 21 days helping with mass care and shelter management. The Red Cross had apparently asked for 240 volunteers but since we aren’t up to full operation here we are only able to send the 15 we did. I’ve been told that they are restricted to only serving for 3 weeks because after that it becomes a mental health hazard. They’re going to be working under very stressful conditions for long hours. The death toll is already up to 22 and over 100 people are injured.
Emotions were running high and ranged from excitement, jealousy, anger, nervousness, and sadness. We were all sad to be leaving each other but then again this was the very reason why lots of us signed up for the program. We all wanted to get our hands dirty and really get some great work done where we were direly needed. It then dawned on the rest of us that were staying behind that we had the responsibility of running the first week and a half of CTI and only a couple of us had gone through it before. Honestly I was pretty excited about it because it gives all us newbies an opportunity to step up because we can no longer rely on the returning members. I was also really excited for the 15 TLs that were getting the opportunity to do really great work.
Unfortunately for them they had to leave to make the 4 hour van drive back to campus at 5am so that they could pack, brief and then leave for the airport. Their first flight was to Honolulu and then they were taking a military flight from Honolulu to American Samoa. They were given lots of reading material to brush up on their disaster respone training.
While they were getting ready for all of that the Unit Leaders came and made a mid site visit and worked with us on site. We had another bonfire with the Unit Leaders which was a lot of fun and then spent our days painting a house, staining a bridge, clearing brush from the high ropes course, cutting fire wood, and taking down Teepees. It was great to actually get out and get some work done.
We’ll be putting together a slide show about the project in the next couple of days so I’ll be sure to upload that when it’s complete.
I wish all of my NCCC friends a safe trip out to American Samoa and know that they’ll be great. Oh, and I got to sleep in a Teepee, very cool!
Peace, Love, and Disaster Relief