When I signed up for a position on a TxCC field crew, I never actually thought I would get sent out on a disaster response, so imagine the excitement when my crew was deployed in June to Eagle Pass, Tx. Our mission was to assist the community which had been badly affected by flooding along the Rio Grande.
Our work was centered around setting up a Joint Assistance Center (JAC) in order to provide a localized place for affected families in the community to come and receive help. We also managed the donations center, which essentially meant wrangling people (volunteers and survivors) in a large gymnasium full of clothing and food.
Day one revealed the biggest challenge we would face over the course of our 8 days in Eagle Pass, the language barrier. As a small border town, over 90%of the locals spoke Spanish. Some of our crew had basic Spanish skills while other had none and it took some amazing volunteers diligently acting as our translators and borrowed phrase books for us to assist the people that needed it.
Once we had figured that out, we were able to set up a registration process that allowed families to move through the JAC and visit with the agencies the needed as well as pick up donations.
The hardest part of the deployment was never really being able to break away from the recovery mindset and decompress. All of the assistance efforts were based in the middle school: the JAC, Red Cross headquarters, the Donations Center, the Survivor Shelter, and our own volunteer shelter. We were given a classroom in an annex building to sleep in; it also housed other recovery groups’ offices. We were in work mode really all the time, with the exception being when we entered our little classroom for the night.
It was challenging, but the people we met and befriended in that small, tight-knit community showed us just how much our work was appreciated and it was during those moments of thanks that I felt truly humbled.
Brandy Singleton, Crew Leader – Field Crew