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AmeriCorps NCCC

It’s starting to feel real

Tuesday October 6, 2009

I was absolutely exhausted today after PT. Ran 4.5 miles today… the most I’ve ever ran. So the day today. Very deceiving. The morning started off nice and easy. We had a great talk about Life After AmeriCorps which entailed what career opportunities there are for us and also talked about Civic Engagement where we read and discussed a great article by Adam Davis. It is quite a good article. I may disagree with a few of his points but for the most part I think he nails it. So for all of you Corps Members that are on your way out here, I have a question for you. Why do you serve? You can answer in the comment’s section or just ponder away to yourself if you want. I give you a few days to think and respond before I tell you my reason. I don’t want to influence your decision.

So after lunch we finally got the schedule for CTI and oh boy is it full. There are lots of stuff packed in there. Following that we talked about what the TLs roles and responsibilities are for CTI and by the end of the 2.5 hours I’m pretty sure all of our heads were about to explode. Let’s just say stuff just got real. We always knew the Corps was about to come but it becomes a lot more serious when you realize it’s a week away and you finally get the schedule. They had to do some rearranging of the schedule to accommodate for the TLs that are out on disaster relief and will be coming back a week or two into CTI.

We then broke down into our Specialty Roles and did some game planning. I’m on the Res Life Team and so we were putting together a calendar of social activities for the Corps during the first two weeks of CTI. After that we figure we’d see what their interests were and get a committee together to help us plan future activities.

For dinner we actually had a catered working dinner with the Program Office where they went over any questions we might have and told us more about their process for selecting sites.

When I got back to my room I saw that one of my TL friends from Samoa had put up an update about what’s going on there. I’ll include it below.

The Red Cross people were kind enough to set up a kiosk with internet – but we don’t know how long it’ll exist. So I’m making full use of it now!

The C-17 military flight from Honolulu into Samoa was so cool. It’s the first time I could lay down anywhere on a plane – but it was freezing since they are not passenger planes and not well insulated.

We’ve been talking to the Governor, Congressman, and Chiefs (mayors) of the villages on a daily basis. We’re trying to work with everyone to best serve those affected by the tsunami. Though it is hot and I’m sure we have collectively never sweated this much in our lives, we work tirelessly. I am learning a lot of the Samoan language and cannot wait to come back to Michigan to share it. We have also purchased some traditional Samoan clothing to wear – it’s lovely.

Right now we’re finished with the first phase (needs assessments) and are into the second phase – supply dropping. We’re putting up tents, bringing in care packages with things like trash bags and gloves and cots and tarps as well. We transport everything using the National Guard 6 Ton trucks or Hum-Vees. It’s pretty cool. I have some wild pictures. The next process after this is to do case working in exchange for food (don’t ask… we’ll be trained and briefed when the time comes). A cargo plane brought in some food last night including several tons of rice – we’re sorting and preparing it now. I am a prime candidate for the case working not only due to my love of people, but because I’m an Anthropologist and am the only one who designed and was the head of a similar program in Mississippi. Wow! However, there is talk of being asked to stay beyond the three weeks because of the intense training the job will take – I doubt I’ll be able to stay, because I have a job to do back in Sacramento, but woah none the less.

For those who have heard rumors, yes, we ran out of water for about two hours yesterday. We found more, but it’s a hot commodity here on the island and the villages are crying for some. It’s hard knowing that I have food and water a-plenty, and they who need it most do not.

Basically, I miss you guys, but I wouldn’t trade this for the world. I am exhausted, take frequent naps, sleep excellently at night, and sweat my bum off during the day. It’s probably only eighty or ninety degrees, but we’re so close to the ocean and equator, it’s hella humid and the sun is like a heat lamp. I may be burnt when I get home… (home being Sacramento).

Please keep an eye on the American Red Cross web site – I just did an interview on the progress here as an AmeriCorps liaison. I hope I did well! Until the next time I can update, I love you all.

Monday October 5, 2009

Today was a really easy day. Well, except for PT. The UL (unit leader) who has been in charge of PT let a couple of TLs lead it this morning and they made sure to give us a great upper body workout. It was actually quite nice because I’ve been feeling like we’ve been neglecting that for a while.

We then spent the morning preparing our Camp Mendocino debrief and gave our presentation to the staff. A debrief is basically a 20 minute presentation that all teams will do when they get back from a spike. You tell the staff what you did and what you learned and about all the team positions. You then field questions for about 10 minutes from the staff. It’s a great way for them to find out all about what you accomplished and more likely than not at least one other team might be able to sit in our your presentation. It’s a great way to find out about what other teams got to do. We made a slide show for the debrief but I don’t currently have the file so when I can get that I’ll be sure and post a link up.

In the afternoon we went back over policies and rules and also discussed the team of TLs deployed to American Samoa. One of the ULs pointed out that it’s a great learning experience for all of us. Most disaster response projects have a composite team sent out to them which means they would pull a couple people from multiple teams to form new teams which would then be led by the STLs (Support Team Leaders). This happens because we also have an obligation to help whichever project we’re originally at and it wouldn’t be fair to pull an entire team off of a project because something has happened. This means teams could get split in half with some members staying and some members going on a disaster relief project. Since us as TLs have already experienced this we will now be better able to handle it if the situation arises again.

Sunday October 4, 2009

Not much happened today except that we sent quite a few people to participate in the Cowtown Marathon. We had 2 relay marathon teams as well as a few 5k runners. One of the ULs even joined in on the fun and completed a marathon relay team. One TL on the marathon relay team went above and beyond and ended up running a half marathon instead of just his required 1/4 marathon. Also, the TLs that ran the 5k got to hang out and chat with the Mayor of Sacramento at the starting line which was pretty cool.

Lesson of the day: I still don’t know what I’m going to be doing in a month or where I’m going, and that is totally awesome! Living in the moment and embracing change and spontaneity is what it’s all about. Rule #1: Be flexible.

“It’s not my job to motivate players. They bring extraordinary motivation to our program. It’s my job not to de-motivate them.” – Lou Holtz

Until next time,

Peace, Love, and C-17s



About Nelson

I've spent the past few years traveling around seeing what I can do to improve our world. I've spent 4 years at the University of Michigan studying engineering. I spent a month in Ghana setting up pilot plastic recycling programs. I spent a month in Ecuador studying Spanish, working on an organic farm, and building schools. I spent a month in Israel studying the culture. I was in charge of site development for the North American Summer Service Team at the University of Michigan and was a Site Leader for the Pangaea World Service Team. I was a member of the percussion based stage performance group called Groove for 4 years. I am a founding member and VP of Corporate Social Responsibility for Juice High Voltage Entertainment. I'm currently a Team Leader for AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps Pacific Region. I've also worked as an engineering intern for Parsons conducting feasibility studies for small towns in Texas in order to see how they could upgrade their public water systems for 3 summers. While attending the University of Michigan I worked with project SERVE to help development service learning initiatives. I am interested in traveling, volunteering, urban and environmental planning/design, always stretching myself and personal development. Lately I've been reading a lot about personal finance and lifestyle design. One day I hope that I'll be either working for or owning my own company that focuses on environmental engineering and international travel and development.


3 thoughts on “It’s starting to feel real

  1. I serve because everyone deserves oppertunity.The corps memebers are there to give each and every person a chance to grow. We may build a house in louisiana, but we give the family who moves in the oppertunity to live and grow with a roof over there heads. We may go to Somoa and just give water but with out this they have no oppertunity to keep moving twords there goal of fully recovoring from this disaster. I serve because I deserve the oppertunity helping those who need it. We as Americorps help make the American Dream possible, to create a oppertunity is to make a difference. That is what our goal has always been and that is why I serve.

    Posted by Sara | October 7, 2009, 8:57 am
  2. I serve to help set an example to encourage myself and others that it indeed can be done for the greater good of things. I serve to push myself and for the sake of reaching out to as many people as I possibly can, I want to make a difference in the lives of others as well as my own. All the while, whole heartedly, on the search for genuine smiles to get me through it all.

    Posted by Laura | October 7, 2009, 11:20 am
  3. Mr. Cooper: I read the Adam Davis article. Don’t worry too much if you didn’t agree with some of it. He is a cynical person, and also fairly pretentious. People who chose genuine service to others are nearly always looking to help others first and as a residual benefit, to help themselves in some way (growth, experience, exposure, cameraderie–whatever—all good). Where Mr. Davis is fundamentally wrong is his opinion that we relish inequality. We don’t. We never have. That may be true in other cultures, but not in the American one. He seems to confuse inequality of condition (which is unavoidable anywhere) with inequality of opportunity. It is opportunity that is America’s promise to our citizens. This is what those who serve are attempting to give. Serving in order to merely sustain or improve a condition of life without the goal of providing opportunity always results in failure over time. That’s how people stay on welfare their entire lives. You create an opportunity and show people a way to use it and you actually accomplish something. I believe this is really why most of your kids are going to serve—and why you do. This is not to say that providing temporary food and shelter is not worthwhile. It is. However, it is important to realize at some level that this is only a bridge to self-sufficiency.
    Sometime, ask recent immigrants to the USA why they came here. I’ll bet you none of them came for the benefits and all of them came for opportunity.
    Good luck to you and your Americorps group.

    Posted by Less Cynical | October 12, 2009, 3:35 am

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