Saturday, August 25, 2012

Equally Big and Important Americorps NCCC Specialties Dump

Following up on last night's post about FEMA specialist positions, here's a bunch of stuff about Americorps NCCC's similar-sounding but completely different specialty positions. Every Corps Member (CM) is going to have at least one of each for the year, and maybe an extra specialty role if they feel like overachieving. 

Service Learning Initiator (SLI)
NCCC is very, very big on "service learning". This, as I understand it, is the process of putting your experience working a disaster in a larger context. One of the Team Leaders (TL) told a story about how she was sent to... a hurricane, I think, and how her team was really jazzed to start clearing debris and helping people and providing medical care and all that good stuff. Well, when they got there, the first thing they did was break out the chainsaws and spend four hours clearing fallen trees out of a muddy field. Not a survivor was even around the place. And understandably, everyone was feeling a bit depressed and irritated about this, because who cares about some stupid trees when there's a whole town that needs help?
Well, it turned out that the stupid broken field was where the town held its annual spring festival (I think--details fuzzy), which was in the next couple of days. And by clearing the trees away, the team had made it possible for the town to put on its festival anyway, hurricane be damned, and temporarily forget about the sodden filthy hell that their lives had become. It was about keeping everyone's spirits up, and once the team understood that, they felt a lot better about what they were doing and how meaningful their work had actually been. It's the SLI's job to facilitate those kinds of experiences, to help the team understand why they're doing this job and why it matters in the process of putting a community back together. How to do that is up to the individual SLI, but it's a job for the creative ones; one imaginative SLI apparently commandeered some Coast Guard helicopters and took their team on an aerial tour of a hurricane-hit coast.

Corps Ambassador/Program Representative (CAPPer)
This one was described to me as being an "Americorps cheerleader". These are the recruiters, the guys who go around to schools and set up tables and give speeches about the glory of the Corps. It involves public speaking, going to job fairs, tabling on college campuses, basically reaching out to 18-24-year-olds who might be interested in doing a year of service. I'm not really sure how well this will work in practice with FEMA Corps, particularly visiting communities right after a disaster, but it's worth a shot I suppose. (It's also true that we won't necessarily be visiting right after disasters; the long-term recovery process for a community, which we might also be helping with, can take a decade or longer.)

Media Rep
This one is my baby. The Media Rep is responsible for generating publicity. They send out press releases, wangle interviews with local TV and radio and intercept the media members who show up at work sites. They're the NCCC's point of contact with the chattering classes. This one also involves some creativity; you can take pictures of NCCC work and post them on a special Flickr account, write articles for the local newspaper, keep a team blog, whatever. (They even give you a special camera!) The only catch is that while NCCC wants to get its name and brand out there as much as possible, FEMA is more secretive than Gringotts, being a part of Homeland Security and all that. I think there'll be more specific guidance on what we can and can't say later, but they went so far as to give everyone a special phrasebook describing how to turn conversations away from sensitive topics.

Peer Helper
This is the job that overachievers can take on in addition to their Specialist and other Specialty roles. It basically entails being there for CMs in crisis, listening to their concerns and letting them get things out. Some of the buzzwords for this one included "self-starter", "good listener" and "non-judgmental". 

Project Outreach Liason (POL)
This one needs some background. There are such things as National Days of Service which fall on federally recognized days, like 9/11 or Martin Luther King Jr. Day. On such days, instead of loafing, the Corps goes to do special projects in their communities. It's the POL's job to set these things up. They're also a resource for CMs to set up Individual Service Projects (ISPs); although it's the CM's job to actually set those up, the POL can give them ideas or get them in touch with people who need volunteers. 

Vehicle, Safety and Tools Officer (VST). This is the one I'm least interested in (with "most" being the Media Rep and, I suppose, the SLI and CAPPer). NCCC travels everywhere in fifteen-person government vans. Traditional NCCC units also use who knows what incredible kinds of chainsaws, tools, whatever. It's the VST's job to inspect the vans and make sure they're working properly, keep track of all the tools and keep everyone cognizant of safety procedures. Like the Reports Specialist, definitely important work, but not something I would enjoy doing as a year-long role.

So yeah. Media Rep is my choice--I have plenty of experience as a journalist and would probably know what buttons to push with regular journalists. After that, SLI would be fun and rewarding work and CAPPer just plain fun. Any of the others would be the booby prize. That's all I've got for now--more stuff coming tomorrow or possibly later tonight.

No comments:

Post a Comment