March was a busy month in these parts of town. Mardi Gras was the biggest New Orleans has seen since Katrina, parades rolled nearly every weekend and festival season has begun. I have been busy at evacuteer.org as well, organizing volunteers from across the country to help with our citizen call campaign. Students and professors from Tulane, Washburn University, University of Colorado-Boulder and the University of Oregon all contributed to New Orleans public safety by assisting in the campaign.
The most difficult part of this project (the first real large-scale volunteer coordination I have ever organized) was anticipating each group’s needs, providing information and answering questions they had about New Orleans and it’s most vulnerable population, the population evacuteer.org serves. Except for Tulane, each group was on an alternative spring break and came from a different region and had a different knowledge base of New Orleans, which was important as they had totally different understandings of the population, which they were speaking directly to!
While some students knew a lot about emergency preparedness and the ins and outs of disaster management, others were being introduced for the very first time. Some students had never left their hometowns before, while others were from other countries. It was challenging but so rewarding to speak with each group extensively and give them an understanding of what evacuteer.org and the New Orleans Office of Emergency Preparedness do. I learned a lot from them, and hope they did too! I learned by the end of the week that drawing comparisons to their own unique regions was the best way for them to get to know ours in the easiest fashion. Preparing for hurricanes is a different ballgame than preparing for tornados, but when I made that comparison to our Kansas friends they understood the inherent difficulties in emergency preparedness much better than before.
It was great to meet such a diverse group of students from so many different areas who were committing themselves to New Orleans. Many told me they would be back on their own in the future and I hope that I get to see them again while I am serving at evacuteer.org.
- Emma Storm Herr, Tulane AmeriCorps VISTA, Evacuteer.Org. For more information on volunteer and donation opportunities, please visit Evacuteer.org