Sunday, June 6, 2010

Rhode Island

So, there is a little bit of backtracking to do.... I meant to start this back in January, but clearly that did not happen. I find it important to document for myslef everything that's going on, and also it's an easy way to keep others informed about "me." So I'm going back in time and writing about all of my experiences to date.. of course I'll miss some, and due to confidentiality I really can't say everything that goes on in the life of a Team Leader (TL), but I can give a good idea of the basics. Hopefully from here on out I'll stay on top of the blog, and update it weekly... reminders may be needed!
We arrived in Rhode Island on a rainy day... that seemed to be the theme of our trip. RAIN.
We were supposed to be working with the town of Cumberland, RI in a nearby park. RI is where the industrial revolution basically started. That's where the first and most textile mills were built, and industry in RI was booming back in the day. There are many rivers there, so the water power really allowed them to "get up and go" when it came to industry.
However, as electricity and new technologies came to light, RI's industries became obsolete. Mills closed down and cities shutdown. RI now has the highest unemployment rate in the U.S.
After spending a week and a half in the park, with lots of rainy days, we received a call form the RI Emergency Management Agency (EMA) - they needed two CM's to help them with flood response efforts. By the end of that week we had 4 CM's working 12 hour shifts, covering the 24 hours in a day, and that next week we all got pulled off of the town's project and placed on disaster. The flooding we saw was incredible...
Eventually, we moved to the United Way building in Providence, RI where we did "call backs." Essentially, FEMA told everyone who was affected by the floods to call "211." Then, we recorded their information and called them back to see of what assistance we could be to them. Badger 1 made more than 12,000 phone calls in the roughly 30 days we were there. We started off working 12 hour days, 7 days a week, and eventually cut it down to 8-10 hour days, 6 days a week. We had to enter the roughly 2,500 people's information into databases.. yes, not just one, but multiple, file all of the paperwork, make phone calls, attend meetings, etc. It was a really busy time,a nd often stressful. To add to the matter... we lived in a 1-bedroom apartment. The guys lived in the living room (5 of us), and the girls lived in the bedroom (5 of them). We had a kitchen and bathroom to share... just didn't offer a whole lot of "get away space." But the team pushed through and made it work... doing one hell of a job!

Amongst the crazy hours, we did manage to have fun, too. We had a day trip to Newport.. which was actually an afternoon trip. It was our first day off as a team in over 4 weeks, so we all slept in, and by time we got on the road it was 2:30pm. Then it took 2.5 hours to get to Newport... because the 45 minute drive extends itself when you drive an hour out of the way.. oops. Newport was a great way for us to relax, enjoy each others company, and regroup. The fresh water, cool breeze, and just being out, in "civies" (civilian clothes). It was a GREAT, short trip.
We also did some movie nights at the theatre, who gave us discount for being government/military employees (hey, the ID's did the talking), we did an Autism walk with one of our sponsors, our sponsor had us over for dinner, took us out for dinner (New England Clam Cakes are SO good), and others.
Additionally, three of us took on a personal challenge... we did a 1/2 marathon. None of the 3 of us had EVER ran one before, and due to how busy we were, none of us really had a chance to train for it... we just DID IT! It was incredible. Steve finished with about a 7min 30sec pace, I finished with about an 8min pace, and Jamie finished with about a 8min 5sec pace.. or something very close to that. Oh, a half marathon is 13.1 miles. It was a great experience... I'll NEVER run a marathon.
I can't speak highly enough of our sponsors in RI. Sponsors are the people we work for. They are our "host" and provide us with the work. The Town of Cumberland was more than accomodating to our needs. Though we lived in a 1 bedroom apartment, it was a last minute adjustment, and they did everything they could to find something more... we settled with it after a while, and called it home... reluctantly at times.
The ladies we worked with at the United Way and 211 were incredible. They offered us breakfast and lunches and dinners, brought us out, brought us to their homes, gave us gifts... they were amazing.... the exact people that anyone would like to work for. With them, we also worked alongside Hands on Disaster Response... again... incredible people who make it their living to help families out when they need it most.
We had a great ISP sponsor in Cumberland as well. Russell, a local theatre director. Him and his crew of volunteers and workers were FANTASTIC. He was easily the person that the team loved to go work for. After long days and weeks, we still found time to fit Russ and his theatre into our schedule to help paint, do yard clean up (which had been neglected, unwillingly, for roughly 4 years), help at events, etc. An absolute honor to work with.
Rhode Island was a mental challenge... for everyone. Getting used to the team was an uphill climb. There are so many distinct and strong personalities on Badger 1 - I do not know how it happened. Christian, who is currently referring to herself as the anti-Christ (probably the funniest thing on the team at this point), says we are "still in the arranged marriage phase, but getting better every day." I'd agree. Just before we left RI we had a chance to meet the Govenor at the United Way, Russ threw us a going away party, our friends with Hands On took us to Boston for dinner...and the Town of Cumberland threw a celebration as well... We will not forget the work that we did, and the challenges we overcame while in RI. But... we're happy and realize why we do "rounds" in AmeriCorps, and do not stay in one place the entire year...

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