If you are thinking of maybe taking a gap year to travel but you’re thinking “how will I finance that?” Or, “what will I do?” I got you! Taking a gap year is no longer something rich kids with a trust fund can do. There are ways for us mere mortals to be able to afford it!
Are you thinking about how you want to travel and gain career experience for free? but aren’t sure how to do that? maybe you should consider joining a service program such as AmeriCorps, the Peace Corps or like I did, FEMA Corps. Many service programs will pay for your travel, transportation, diet, and housing.
First of all, what is FEMA Corps?
FEMA Corps is a partnership between the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) of the United States of America and the AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) program. FEMA Corps is a unique, team-based service program that gives 18‐24 year olds the opportunity to serve communities impacted by n
As FEMA Corps members you live, breath, work, travel, eat and sleep in teams for 10 months. Gaining training and career experience while providing significant support to disaster survivors and communities around the country. During my term serving, the teams served all over the United States. Some teams served in places such as Saipan, Hawaii and Puerto Rico.
As a FEMACorps member you will also earn a modest living stipend during your service, emphasis on the word MODEST! you will also receive a taxable education award upon completion of the program. Again emphasis on the word TAXABLE!
So why did I choose to join FEMA Corps?
I’m going, to be honest, I joined FEMA Corps not really knowing what it was. At that time I was unemployed, looking for ways to make my resume stand out. At university I was never given advice on participating on internships and extracurricular activities. I mainly focused on graduating in 4 years with good grades. After I graduated I had a diploma but, no career experience. And, nothing to make my resume stand out from the million others out there!
My career goals have always been to work in disaster relief and humanitarian aid. When I graduated from university, I naively thought that by having a diploma and a bit of volunteer experience working in my local Amnesty International chapter was going to be enough for me to work for the likes of Amnesty International, Oxfam, and, Human Rights Watch… Funny, right? Little did I know that those amazing organizations were places where getting in was not only difficult but super competitive!
My cousin told me about AmeriCorps and I started researching everything about it. While looking at all of my options I decided to apply to FEMA Corps because it aligned well with my career goals of someday working in humanitarian aid and disaster relief. It looked like a great opportunity so I took the chance and applied!
So how can I explain 10 months in one blog post? You can’t! There are too many things that sometimes you just can’t put into words. But maybe I can start by explaining how it works.
There are 4 campuses all over the country:
- Sacramento, California,
- Vinton, Iowa
- Vicksburg, Mississipi
- Aurora, Colorado.
The Southern Region Campus located in Vicksburg, Mississippi invited me to serve. They flew me there, and after a month of training we finally learned where we would be serving for our first round.
I was first deployed to Manchester, New Hampshire. We drove all the way from Mississippi. While in New Hampshire, my team worked at a FEMA Joint Field Office, where we assisted in the recovery operation of 3 windstorms that affected the states of New Hampshire, Maine, and Vermont. There my team assisted the Environmental and Historical Preservation cadre with data analysis, creating flood maps and being part of meetings by taking notes and talking to officials about the damages their towns or fire departments had gone through because of the storms.
While living in Nashua, some of us volunteered at the Nashua Community College where we became English conversational partners with international students from all over the world. We met people from Mexico, Colombia, Congo, Brazil, The Dominican Republic, and many more countries. This project was particularly close to my heart because I understand the struggle these students are going through. As a non-native English speaker, I understand the frustrations of learning a new language while living in a country that is not your own.
I was also able to volunteer with Habitat for Humanity in the Women’s Build Week of 2018! Something I am extremely proud of!
For our second round, we went to the State of Vermont to work on the State’s Commodity Points of Distribution Plan. This would be a plan that would come into action whenever there is a disaster in the State and there is a need to distribute commodities to the communities. After 3 months my team created the plan for the state. Localizing over 26 locations in Chittenden County and the 9 state airports.
We are extremely proud of this project because we were able to create a plan that will help communities in times of need. The National Guard of the State of Vermont is now in charge of putting that plan into action.
My time in Vermont was very special to me. During my second round, I jumped from being a Corps Member to becoming a Team Leader. Now, I was in charge of keeping 6 people alive and safe! This was a frightening and humbling experience where I grew and developed so much as a leader.
After our second round ended, back to Mississippi we waited to see where we would be heading next. While in campus Hurricane Florence made landfall in the Carolinas. Starting off Hurricane season and thus giving us what many of us were waiting for, the opportunity of being able to work in an active disaster. My team got sent to assist Operations working in the Regional Response Coordination Center, in Denton, Texas. We were there for a short time, after a few weeks Hurricane Michael made landfall in the Florida Panhandle and my team got the opportunity of going straight into an active disaster.
There is no way to explain how it feels to work in an environment like this one. While we worked in Florida we assisted the Disaster Survivor Assistance Cadre where we registered survivors for FEMA assistance. As a team, we assisted over 1,000 survivors and were able to canvas many areas affected by the hurricane.
Overall my FEMA Corps experience was a very positive one. I met amazing people that are now my colleagues and friends. I visited places I had never been before and I was able to serve communities in need all the while I was making connections and learning new skills that will help me along the way in my career.
If you think joining a service program could benefit you or if you want to serve communities be sure to check out the many Americorps programs that are offered nationwide. If you are interested in a more international setting you should definitely check out the Peace Corp.
Being part of FEMA Corps was an amazing opportunity where I developed and grew so much as a person. I faced challenges I never thought I would face and I learned so much about myself and about others. Now I am a more confident person who is sure about her abilities to overcome any obstacle. Overall I truly enjoyed my time serving and I definitely recommend it to anyone who wants to dedicate some of their time serving others. If you are interested in joining FEMA Corps or if you want to know more about the program, be sure to let me know in the comments!