Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The AmeriCorps Member: A True Life Story Series

When I introduce myself to someone and what I do, I usually start with "Hi, my name is Tai, and I'm an AmeriCorps member." Almost without fail, the response is usually a blank stare for a few seconds until I follow it up with "... It's the national service corps." That statement is most often met with raised eye-brows and a "Oh cool! Very neat." I then explain that there are different corps within AmeriCorps and my corps, the National Preparedness and Response Corps, is basically a collaborative effort between AmeriCorps and the American Red Cross. We work on emergency preparedness, community resilience, and disaster relief. For 2013-2014, there are 122 "NPRCers" across the United States at various Red Cross Chapters. Here in the Central Valley Region, we're lucky enough to have three NPRCers who have dedicated 11 months and at least 1,700 hours of national service.

All of this is good and dandy, but what is life actually like as an AmeriCorps member? I'd like to start this series of NPRC life stories with how I got here using the notions of motivation and adventure.

I applied to the NPRC with much skepticism. I didn't have any social ties to the region, I didn't know where I would live, and I didn't know how I was going to make ends meet. What I did know was that this was a different course of action from almost anyone I've known and I'll admit, I don't always stick to the way things are traditionally accomplished (Exhibit A: Taking courses in croquet and juggling to graduate from college and earn my Bachelor's degree...). When I started to learn how this position positively affects people, so much to the point where I have the real potential to save lives, needless to say my motivation for applying and becoming an AmeriCorps member soared. 

With the motivation came the wide-eyed, kid-in-a-candy-store syndrome when I realized the adventure I was about to embark upon. The more I thought about life in the Central Valley and the work I would be doing, I realized more and more that this would be an adventure unlike any other I've experienced thus far. I was warned that I would have to be flexible because my schedule can change at a moments notice, that I would be responding to local disasters, that I would encounter all sorts of demographics, that I would travel around the region to conduct shelter surveys, and that I would go on a national deployment for weeks, away from the comforts of my new home. 

And I thought "Yes, I want that adventure."

Amitai "Tai" S. Zuckerman
Preparedness Coordinator
American Red Cross – Tulare and Kings Counties

AmeriCorps NPRC Member 2013-2014
Community Preparedness and Resilience Services

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