Disaster Deployment Day 2

Another day has passed, day 3 of my 14 day deployment. The weather here is nice, 80 - 85 during the day, 70 in the evenings. We are expecting thunder and lightning in the next couple days with potential tornadoes so are getting prepared to take shelter if needed.

We are still in wait mode. After our job introduction and orientation my friend Sandra and I helped with administrative tasks today until lunchtime (newsprint org charts and staffing the desk, forms, sign in, etc). I also helped another volunteer a bit with calling agencies to identify resources and referrals in the hard-hit counties.

We are guessing that face to face case work with impacted residents will start tomorrow. The FEMA disaster declaration has been issued in 7 counties so far (last I heard) and this response has been upgraded to a level 6 operation in Red Cross terms (max is level 7, katrina style). In the picture I attached you can see what's happening from our end and it is inspiring. I just keep thinking how lucky I am to be able to do this, be here as part of my job and see so many kind-hearted, talented and dedicated volunteers.

In fact, I am amazed by the great turnout of people from my home chapter here responding. A rough count says at least 14 people! It is really nice to see familiar faces in the sea of hundreds and I am meeting other great people, forging friendships in our shared experiences. One of our chapter volunteers was recognized in a meeting today for leading a group of volunteers in distributing goods yesterday, making contact with 700 individuals and coordinating with Nat'l Guard for distribution. Wahoo!!

In the late afternoon (still hangin' at headquarters) the caseworkers all received their supervisor and location assignments, and at that time I was transitioned out of client case work and into a new assignment for now: Integrated Care Team (ICT), Client Caseworker. Integrated care teams have been formed to address the needs of survivors who have lost loved ones and caring for the injured, and consist of volunteers from disaster health services, mental health, spiritual care (chaplains), and caseworkers. There are 10 of us caseworkers doing ICT outreach (4 from my home chapter) initially and I feel both a bit anxious and very humbled to have this opportunity.

What this could include is home, shelter or hospital visits to families that have lost loved ones to hear their story, provide a listening ear and what assistance we can, attending funeral or memorial services to provide additional support, and home or hospital visits to the individuals and families that have sustained serious injury. I am trying to mentally prepare for the challenges I will face, and some of the ideas for our own mental health include writing down our thoughts, feelings and experiences, talking to others not involved in this work (while maintaining client confidentiality), and taking time to mentally process the stories we hear and see.

Our lead chaplain reminded us that it's important to keep our spiritual beliefs and practices near us during this time... So I am going out on a limb to say that some of my deepest beliefs are based in the collective love and spirit of humanity, especially that of my friends and family. Whatever your spiritual practices and beliefs are, please take a moment to keep the trials and endurance of these people in your heart, sending positive energy, a spirit of strength, and/or prayers to them. If you will include me and the other volunteers I will be grateful.

Signing out for a long walk and hot shower. Goodnight.

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