This post is to get into the not so fun details of all the projects Delta 4 was assigned.
Again, I can only speak for my own experiences as a Field Team Leader, Class 24C at the Southern Region campus in Vicksburg, Mississippi.
Our very first round- which was 2 whole months- was spent at the YMCA Camp Piomingo in Brandenburg, Kentucky. Looking back, at the time, this project seemed like it was the absolute worst, but Round 4 definitely topped it.
What I appreciated most about this project was that our supervisor, also the director of the camp, treated me and my team like adults. I will always appreciate that because that rarely happened again. The location of the camp was also great for its purpose. I can see how a kid would have an absolute blast there.
The issues with this project was the questionable housing (cabins with only bunks in them and no air circulation or properly closed windows), disrespectful and clearly-not-amused-by-our-presence cafeteria staff, and the location of this project in relation to grocery stores, general civilization, and ISP opportunities.
Round 1 was the most frustrating to me because of an issue I had with a teammate that ended up leaving halfway through this project. Long story short, he was on the spectrum and really should have never been allowed in the program. He was very sweet and helpful when he was in a good mood, but when he was upset, there was no getting through to him for days at a time. I wrote Incident Reports for him because that’s what I was told to do, but he didn’t understand why and I couldn’t explain it to him. It was frustrating to say the least and my heart hurt because I didn’t know what kind of situation I was sending him back into, but I was not qualified to take care of him the way that he needed to be taken care of.
Whew. Okay. This round was a lot. We spent time in New Bern, NC with Fuller Center, Willard, NC with A-DRT, and Ocracoke National Seashore with National Park Service.
New Bern, NC was a mess. I have nothing good to say about this project except that maybe the shower trailer we were given was 5/5 stars. Truly amazing. Other than that, our main site supervisor was inappropriate, sexist, and did not treat my team as professional adults. During this project, we were also partially under the AmeriCorps- Disaster Response Team. They were located a few hours away and came to visit us at our site one day. The head lady couldn’t’ve been but 26 and was wearing very short shorts, boots, and a rough looking beanie. It was not the image I had in mind of the head of Incident Command. Anyway. One of my teammates was also held up at gunpoint during this project and the suffocating response from local news, a nosy local pastor, A-DRT, FEMA, and other FEMA related police/investigative people was just too much. When people from A-DRT showed up again, it was the same woman, and I told her that they all needed to leave because they were overwhelming my team. I later got a call from my Unit Leader telling me that A-DRT thought I wasn’t letting my team speak and that I was denying them the helped they possibly wanted/needed. I was ready to quit, let me tell you. There was also zero training for anything here. That was nice.
So after New Bern becomes a bust, we get moved to where A-DRT is stationed: Willard, NC. We spend about one week here and the conditions are less than desirable, but not awful. It was below freezing at night and early in the morning. 2 of my members slept in the main sleeping area on cots with 40 other people on cots, and me and the rest of my team slept in a 10 person tent outside on sleeping pads. There were some leaks and the wind was fierce, but it was okay. I tried to steer clear of the IC because I didn’t really like her. The meetings that team leads were supposed to do each day were also pointless and annoying, but I didn’t have anything else to do. They tried to make me pay an insane amount of my teams budget for combined meals each day, but I made them a deal that Delta 4 would participate in dinners, but not breakfast or lunch because we had our own supplies in our cargo van. That van became our kitchen, our general storage unit, and our toolbox.
The last bit of Round 2 was spent on Ocracoke Island, two hours from the mainland. It was cold here too, but this was my personal favorite project. The island had its own culture and it was beautiful. Our main site supervisor was deaf and my team quickly jumped into almost daily ASL practice sessions after dinner for those who wanted to learn more. I enjoyed the work, the island, the people we worked with- it was just overall a very nice experience. There were some things that could have been better: WiFi didn’t exist basically, affordable grocery stores were 1 hour away, ISPs were 2-3 hours away, and it was COLD. Nevertheless, Ocracoke was still my personal favorite location.
This is probably my team’s favorite project. We worked with Habitat for Humanity in Punta Gorda, Florida for one month. The weather was beautiful, the housing was amazing, and the people we worked with were respectful, fun, and taught us what we needed to know for each house we worked on. It was truly fantastic.
The only complaint I would bring up is when they housed us with 15 students from Harvard for one week. They were loud, messy, and just overall inconsiderate. One of them even left a rude comment on the Habitat for Humanity exit survey and I threw it away because no one needed to read that. I didn’t have much of an opinion on humans who attended Harvard, but these people definitely helped give me one.
The other downside to this project is a personal one: I was going through some health issues at this time, so I wasn’t having as good of a time as I could have been, but I still enjoyed myself.
Our final Round together was split between United Way of the Mid South in Memphis, TN and HomeFront Inc. in Trenton, NJ.
United Way was our best sponsor project, I think. The staff we met went above and beyond in making sure that we had everything we needed, so most negative things I have to say about this project are not directed towards those few individuals we worked with on an almost daily basis. Taxes are boring, and we knew this going in. The hardest thing about this project was not working as a team; each person had his/her assigned role and that’s where we sat for that day. It was difficult for me to find ways to keep the team feeling like a unit. We did run into an issue at one of sites where they already had several volunteers who had been doing this for 20+ years; we got the message that they had their ways of doing things and that they didn’t seem to need or want us. At other sites, it seemed like they never had enough people and we would go from 5 hours of no clients to being swamped with 20. One of the most irritating parts of this project was the housing confusion. Initially, we were housed in Millington with another NCCC team, but the sponsor thought we were leaving at the same time as they were. This was not the case and Delta 4 found themselves without housing. After a confusing 2-3 period, we were told to stay at a Christian Retreat Center in Memphis. It was only 1 week, so it was fine, but had it been any longer, it would not have worked. The last thing about this round is the long commute we were driving every day. Each tax location was at least 45 minutes to 1 hour away from housing, so we lost some hours just driving.
HomeFront Inc. was our last and worst project. While there were a handful of very sweet and considerate staff members, the overall experience here was stressful, confusing, and it felt like a waste of time. Even on our day of arrival, we sat in the parking lot for 45 minutes because they didn’t know where we were going to sleep- that’s something that is listed on the project application and should be decided months in advance. There were multiple instances where the team was given no direction and I, as the TL, was given no plan for any day. This is also something that is supposed to be outlined on the project application and decided months in advance. We were given an abundance of food that we could not possibly eat and they refused to calm that down. Mostly, it just felt like we were being handed off to random staff members for 3 weeks because no one actually had a plan for us being there.