Saturday, January 22, 2011

While I Was Out Part 8: The Mississippi Commission for Volunteer Services/ BP Gulf Oil Spill Response

So the title for this one pretty much explains it all. Like I said earlier (see the ending of part 6) We left Toledo early to go directly to Mississippi to help in the relief efforts of the BP Oil spill in the Gulf Coast. Our team, along with Maple 3, had the job of working with the Mississippi Commission of volunteer services which was trickier than it sounds. You see the thing that people who weren't there didn't really get to hear about was that volunteers weren't allowed anywhere near the oil. This was because the future health risks to being exposed to the oil were unkown at the time so to avoid issues of liability only trained BP hired workers in what can only be described as haz-mat suites were allowed to handle the oil. Most of these workers that BP hired and trained were workers from the fishing and tourism industries who were displaced by the Oil Spill, so yes BP did mess up monumentally with this but they were making some effort to correct the situation. (Not playing the devil's advocate here, there was still a lot more they could have done.)So it was up to AmeriCorps NCCC to answer the hotline of the Volunteer Response Center (VRC) and respond to the e-mails of all those nice people who wanted to help clean up oil and do all the sexy jobs, (as one of the MCVS workers called it) and kindly tell them they couldn't and then tried to get them to commit to other volunteer opportunities that related to the oil spill.
So it was more office work with lots of spread sheets than hard labor which we all knew was a possibility but I don't think anyone was quite expecting it so early in the corps year. When we got there, there was only one such opportunity that the NCCC team we were there to relieve had set up and that was the coast watchers program. The Coast watchers were a group of volunteers who would walk the beaches of the coast that hadn't yet been effected by the spill and patrol it looking for signs of oil. The coast watchers would then report their findings to us and we then sent in all the reports to the higher ups so that they could then act accordingly.We worked with some pretty interesting people while in MS. There was Susan who was an incredibly sweet lady who ended every sentence in "well bess your heart." There was Mary, who wasn't mean, but everytime she came into our cafeteria turned office it was with bad news that made our job that much harder. There was also Elise who was the eyes and ears for the powers at be in DC. She was fun, and was familiar with the greater Cleveland area so we talked about that. There were three VRCs total that covered three different counties; my team (Maple One) covered the VRCs in Harrison and Jackson County and Maple Three had Hancock county. Our team came up with some more opportunities for volunteers to do including working with local humane societies to transport pets across states to facilities with available space. Now something like that doesn't sound like it would relate to the oil spill but actually humane societies had a huge influx of animals once workers in the fishing in tourism industries lost work and could no longer afford to keep there pets.
Maple One stayed at Camp Victor in Oceansprings, which was cool when it was just us staying there, but man when the large groups of middle school/high school age of volunteers were there it was so loud and obnoxious, with there singing and dancing, I swear that guy was playing the accordion just to spite me. This was also about when Naima left the team because of the baby. We were eventually relieved by Maple 2 which was when Blaze and I really hit it off. There are so many things I could say about Mississippi, it was hot, the work was often frustrated and short in supplies, but it was definitely a game changer.
A lot about me changed after that project, and it was certainly eventful. The short list being:
*found out I had gone 400 plus dollars into over draft (A problem which has since been corrected)
*Had a bit of a nervous break down
*let the other Avery shave my head forever purging my head of the remnants of my bleached locks.
*broke up with my high school girl friend
*read the final volume in the Scott Pilgrim series and then saw the movie.
*discovered the band Of Montreal
*started working on my Cheerleader comic Immaculate
*got the nickname "Amazing Chocolate bomb".
*painted a mural of Maple One as the New Mutants at Camp Victor
*had the world's greatest potato salad at the Shed

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