Thursday, August 30, 2012

Newest Americorps NPRC Members

My name is Cayce and, along with my cohort Jessica Marquez, I am the newest and first Americorps National Preparedness and Readiness Corps (NPRC) member of the American Red Cross Central Valley Chapter. Based out of beautiful Fresno, California, my job for the next 11 months will be to prepare the communities of Fresno, Madera, Merced and Mariposa Counties for disasters and provide relief efforts in the unfortunate event of a disaster. 

My very first, first-hand experience with the Red Cross was in 2007 when I was sent to do research in the Saharawi Refugee Camps located in Algeria among a desolate expanse of the Sahara Desert. Here I saw tireless relief efforts by the Saharawi Red Crescent (SRC) in conjunction with the Algerian Red Crescent (ARC). When Morocco invaded its southern neighbor, Western Sahara, in 1975 the Saharawi Red Crescent was established to provide relief efforts to the people of Western Sahara and to help establish a refugee camp across in Algeria. Today all the aid coming into the camps is channeled through the SRC and ARC. In a place where few survive, the Saharawi people have united and organized themselves in a way that has allowed them to survive and grow to a population of 165,000 over the past 37 years. The SRC and ARC could always be found at community centers handing out food rations, propane tanks, and other necessities. Working in places like this and seeing the efforts of humanitarian aid workers like the Red Crescent is what inspired me to want to make this my career.

Mustafa, 4, overlooking the Saharawi Refugee Camps
After returning home, I completed my Bachelor's in Anthropology from UC Santa Barbara, backpacked Australia, New Zealand and Southeast Asia, and interned with human rights based non-profits along the way. Returning home once again, I started looking for jobs in human rights work and realized that the UN, Amnesty International and International Committee of the Red Cross all required higher degrees and more experience to get the jobs I wanted. So I went to Kingston University in England to complete my Master's in Human Rights, interned and volunteered with more non-profits, then finally came back home to California to pursue a slightly less up-and-go lifestyle. 

Cayce in Palermo, Sicily 2011
Through a series of unlikely events - having to waitress for 8 months, chatting to a customer about her work, finding out she works for the American Red Cross, and finally getting the"in" I needed to land a job in the field I've been wanting to work in - I got the NPRC position with Americorps and the American Red Cross Central Valley Chapter. So now I get to be the crazy person who dreams of going into desolate, conflict ridden, disaster prone areas and finding out what I can do to help. So I am happy to be sitting here, watching storm maps and teaching my neighbors how to be resilient in the event of a disaster.

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