Disaster Deployment, Day 2

An update for my friends and family...

Trying to write down my experiences...

Hi mom,

Not sure if my text went through earlier but you can see what our sleeping arrangements kind of look like with about 300 in the staff shelter. It is interesting trying to sleep this way, very hard with all the sounds and movement. I have much more sympathy for our clients in shelters now-- I am glad we provide cots, blankets, etc but they are truly a last choice. Wait lines for the bathrooms (2 stalls for the women) can be long and we have ample showers. We are staying at a university outside Birmingham and the campus is beautiful and green.

Today was a long day. Part of being deployed is the test of patience because waiting can be the name of the game. Casework (my job here) is just ramping up so most caseworkers today were shared with Mass Care, meaning they went out and distributed food and water to people, churches and shelters in affected areas.

I was asked to stay behind and do some computer work to help compile data from damage assessments (as you can imagine, many volunteers are retirees and have limited computer use), and I was excited to help with something I am good at. Unfortunately our technology had some problems and that job was put on hold and I took a knitting and nap rest while they told me to wait... For hours. In the early afternoon we were going to help mass care and do some outreach to people that might need medical or mental health support, but when we arrived at the rendezvous point they were temporarily over-staffed. We went back to headquarters and waited some more.

Around 5:30 I arrived back at the shelter, without having done any hard work and with the understanding that as the disaster relief effort scales up and organizes, a large degree of patience and vision for the entire response is required. I'm fine with this, flexible. It is only my first real day and I was forewarned that this would likely happen. Luckily my friend did distribute goods and had a beautiful experience dropping off supplies at a church where they were holding Sunday services at the time. She said the minister and parishioners were in high spirits, very supportive within their own community and she enjoyed some Southern gospel choir.

Anyway, I promptly fell asleep for 2 hours on my cot after sitting down to rest, wearing my red vest, ID badge and lanyard, and clutching the phone in my hand because I was thinking about sending updates. The volunteer and good friend (referenced above)from our chapter is here with me, and eventually I woke up for a nice evening stroll together and some stretching and calisthenics on the grass. Gotta get in shape for Meisha's wedding! :)

So overall, good so far. They presented some photos to us in orientation to try and prepare us mentally for what we will see and hear from clients, but it's all a little unreal until I start meeting with them. I have recovered from the 15 hour travel day yesterday and look forward to my work.

Xoxo,

Mandy

Comments

  1. I love you sister. I appreciate the update and am so glad that you and others are there physically for help and support.

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  2. I love this. I am indebted to volunteers like you. We have a dear friend who lived in Tuscaloosa, and have thought about him and his family. I know I can't go out, but I can donate to the Red Cross. Thanks so much!

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