September 17, 2006: Headlines: COS - Ukraine: Hurricane Relief: Crisis Corps: PCOL Exclusive: Ukraine RPCV Chandler Harrison Stevens writes about RPCVs working in Crisis Corps in Hurricane Relief (Part 1)

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Peace Corps Library: Crisis Corps: January 23, 2005: Index: PCOL Exclusive: Crisis Corps : September 17, 2006: Headlines: COS - Ukraine: Hurricane Relief: Crisis Corps: PCOL Exclusive: Ukraine RPCV Chandler Harrison Stevens writes about RPCVs working in Crisis Corps in Hurricane Relief (Part 1)

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Ukraine RPCV Chandler Harrison Stevens writes about RPCVs working in Crisis Corps in Hurricane Relief (Part 1)

Ukraine RPCV Chandler Harrison Stevens writes about RPCVs working in Crisis Corps in Hurricane Relief (Part 1)

It is curious that top-down contractors (Halliburton & Bechtel), presidents (Clinton & Bushes), and FEMA leaders (Brown & Allen) are known mainly by last names, while Peace Corps volunteers I met today, Dani & Ellen, only give their first names when introducing themselves. Dani delayed going home to Greece so that she could help Katrina victims. She is a travel writer in Athens, where she has lived these past three years. Dani was in Phoenix visiting her sister when she volunteered to help FEMA for the next 30 days. Ellen is an environmental educator living in a 50-person community north of San Francisco. Both Dani and Ellen are (like I am, as well) Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs), who for the next 30 days are members of the Crisis Corps.

Ukraine RPCV Chandler Harrison Stevens writes about RPCVs working in Crisis Corps in Hurricane Relief (Part 1)

KATRINA VOLUNTEERS

Katrina, a category-five hurricane, was more than a disaster. Richard Clarke, the former anti-terrorism czar for both Presidents Clinton & George "W" Bush, on ABC-TV after W's September 15th address from New Orleans, called Katrina a calamity, not a disaster. Clarke said that the military, three months ago, should have been put in charge of reacting to this calamity. Coast Guard Vice Admiral Thad Allen has now replaced Michael Brown, the recently resigned director of FEMA, the Federal Emergency Administration. Clarke's hindsight about the Katrina role for military volunteers contrasts with Jesse Jackson's foresight on CNN-TV. Reverend Jackson said that Katrina victims should be given volunteer incentives to return to help rebuild their communities. Why not pay such victims much less than will be paid expensive contractors like Halliburton & Bechtel to help rebuild New Orleans and other Gulf Coast communities destroyed by this hurricane/disaster/calamity called Katrina?

The military is the epitome of a top-down managed organization. Peace Corps is not. Its volunteers usually serve alone and thus are trained to be resourceful enough to give themselves "orders" in carrying out their assigned missions. Nation-building overseas and community-building in the USA can be better carried out by Peace Corps Volunteers rather than by military volunteers. Police functions can be augmented by the military, but wars and violence, as now in Iraq, can be aggravated by foreign military volunteers trying to do nation-building or community-building tasks. History is being made by the Peace Corps being deployed inside the US for the first time, now in the aftermath of Katrina.

It is curious that top-down contractors (Halliburton & Bechtel), presidents (Clinton & Bushes), and FEMA leaders (Brown & Allen) are known mainly by last names, while Peace Corps volunteers I met today, Dani & Ellen, only give their first names when introducing themselves. Dani delayed going home to Greece so that she could help Katrina victims. She is a travel writer in Athens, where she has lived these past three years. Dani was in Phoenix visiting her sister when she volunteered to help FEMA for the next 30 days. Ellen is an environmental educator living in a 50-person community north of San Francisco. Both Dani and Ellen are (like I am, as well) Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs), who for the next 30 days are members of the Crisis Corps.

We are volunteers, but the $4000, paid each of us for food and lodging, could have gone a long way toward paying qualified Katrina victims to help their communities rebuild. Today, I sat in on an hour-long meeting of 16 RPCVs being deployed tomorrow to live in a "tent city" in Baton Rouge. Some of their "lodging" money will pay for sleeping bags in that crowded city that now has double the population it had before Katrina sent thousands of evacuees there from New Orleans.

Hundreds of the tens of thousands of RPCVs have, in the past, accepted Crisis Corps assignments overseas. Four hundred were expected to become Katrina volunteers. But FEMA is about to take Jesse Jackson's advice and pay some Katrina victims to assume volunteer roles that receive subsistence pay, perhaps similar to what Peace Corps volunteers receive. So only 115 Crisis Corps RPCVs are likely to be Katrina volunteers working for 30 days each through FEMA. That appwas decided to day, September 15th, the day I arrived in Orlando, to begin Saturday to take two days of FEMA training.

I learned, while serving in Ukraine for two years (1999-2001) in the Peace Corps, two important attributes: patience and flexibility. I had not expected to have time to write this piece about "Katrina Volunteers." But I arrived at my Orlando hotel an hour too late to go to FEMA today to process-in. Since noon tomorrow is the next opportunity to do that, I'll find an Internet computer tomorrow morning to type this up. My left hand has "typewriter's cramp" or forearm dystonia, which was diagnosed and treated last month after two years of pain, which is now subsiding. Because I type one-handed, the Peace Corps on Tuesday turned me down. Three short hours later, they reversed that decision, after I had appealed by email. A week ago, I didn't know I was even being considered.

I just learned that my two days of FEMA training will take place on Saturday and Monday. The Peace Corps interviewed me last Sunday for this Crisis Corps assignment. However, this Sunday, FEMA, which has been working long hours, is closed. So maybe I'll drop in on either Disney World or the Universal them park that day. Flexibly, what I expected to last for only two days in Orlando, will take more than five days here.

If that kind of flexibility and patience continues to be required, perhaps I'll write next about "Katrina Victims" as well as more about "Katrina Volunteers." or maybe, as Reverend Jackson advocates, about some combination of those two groups. If you combine "victims" with "volunteers" you get "victeers." That sounds like "victors!"

September 16th P.S.: I just met Lee Ann, who lost her house, and Tom, who lost his truck, due to Katrina. They are Crisis Corps "victeers" from New Orleans. Training begins at 7 a.m. tomorrow. Today, in our Crisis Corps group of eleven, I was first to be fingerprinted by computer scanning, but I was last to get my security clearance from the FBI. Go figure.





When this story was posted in February 2006, this was on the front page of PCOL:


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This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Ukraine; Hurricane Relief; Crisis Corps

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