I can hardly keep track of my own life right now, so I can hardly expect those reading this to place me on the map. I am now back in Bay St. Louis, MS...the original project that I left to go help out with disaster relief in Tennessee. I am happy to be back, but still in a period of readjusting.
My experience in Tennesse taught me much more than I had expected. I went in there hoping to learn more about being a first responder and disaster relief overall, but ended up learning a lot about a part of America and a sector of American life that I had previously known little about.
If you think that you have been in the 'middle of nowhere' I challenge you to 30 days in Macon County, Tennessee. I have never felt so far out of my comfort zone nor so far away from my beliefs. The religious prescence was overwhelming at times and certainly the definitive characteristic of the region. I am happy to elaborate if anyone is curious, but I will leave it by saying that I worry more about the wealthy, white, homeschooled, isolated children I met in Tennessee than I do about my poor, Mexican-American, urban children I taught in California.
In terms of the overall disaster relief, the work was not as back breaking as I thought, but shocking nonetheless. The region has a long ways to go and I have little confidence that it will moving along at any rapid pace. The area hit was so poor they simply do not have the resources for relief. Additionally, the people in the area are such self-sufficient, rural farmers that they do not welcome help nor want to accept the fact that they need the help.
It was weird to be in the middle of a disaster area yet whenever I talked to my family or friends they had no idea that anything was still going on there. It goes to show you how much goes on outside our lives that we have no idea about. Once a story falls off the national media radar, it might as well not exist anymore. It made me wonder about every other small town in America and all over the world that was suffering and no one even knows about it.
All in all, I am very happy with my decision to leave my team and work in Tennessee for the month. It is easy to get caught up in NCCC and forget the true reason why you committed to the program in the first place. You are constantly moving around, meeting all sorts of interesting people, seeing all sorts of fun and exciting places...it is easy to get caught up in the moment. However, I joined AmeriCorps*NCCC to serve, to give myself to something bigger, to help those in need, to drop anything and move towards the need...and by leaving my team, packing one bag on a day's notice and hopping into a van with total strangers, I did just that. I feel a lot more self-aware and independent after my Tennessee experience and at this point I feel comfortable taking on just about anything.