On 2 September, TxCC deployed a team of 5 to Saipan, a US territory in the far reaches of the Pacific. Our members have been working tirelessly to establish systems that help survivors access assistance from volunteer groups and that make it easy for individuals to volunteer. Getting to know the community is half of the challenge and most of the fun of deployments, and our team was lucky to have fellow AmeriCorps members as resources.
At the top of Capitol Hill on the island of Saipan, AmeriCorps members from the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands (CNMI), Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa (CCMI), and Texas Conservation Corps (TXCC) met together for the first time. There were 16 CNMI members, 3 CCMI members, and 5 TxCC members in addition to staff from each program and a trigger happy AmeriCorps Cadre photographer. The CNMI AmeriCorps program is a tutoring program for elementary and middle schoolers. Members are recent high school graduates are already more level-headed than most of our peers, including our fellow Conservation Corps members.
We started the afternoon with introductions about where we were from and made name tags. Then we went outside for a Conservation Corps classic, the stretch circle. We went around the circle with everyone picking a stretch and answering the question of the day which was “What got you in AmeriCorps and what are you doing after your term of service?” Most of the responses from the CNMI folks revolved around them being recruited from their friends and family or a desire to work in education. Our next activity had us circle around a single person and the person in the middle would say something they that they like or dislike. If anyone shared the same like or dislike, they would have to run into the middle and find a new position in the circle. We got to know each other, found out some similarities and shared some laughs.
After that we went inside for snacks. CNMI members brought awesome Lumpias (kind like egg rolls), meat-on-a stick, fruit pudding and island donuts. We brought brownies. I think we won. During this time we each sat down with a CNMI member and learned about the other person. We had three guiding questions of: “What is your dream job? What is the biggest misconception about where you live and what is it like to live where you’re from?” It’s nice to know that people think Texas is only comprised of cowboys and cowgirls. Apparently from the Saipan side, one of the major misconceptions about the island is that a lot of people think it is Spain. An interesting mistake for sure. After we learned about each other personally, we sat through presentations about the different National Service opportunities available through AmeriCorps programs(VISTA, State & National, Senior Corps), NCCC, Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa, and Texas Conservation Corps. We all benefit from what AmeriCorps has to offer young people who want to further their education and professional careers. When we left we even heard some talk of wanting to have their own conservation corps on the island! Our job was done.
Without a doubt, all of us mainlanders really enjoyed meeting the CNMI members. I don’t think anyone looked at the experience like a forced meeting that we all have to suffer through, but more like a joining of like minded people sharing their experiences. On the mainland we kind of take for granted having other AmeriCorps members around, especially those of us that serve in larger cities with multiple programs. To have fellow AmeriCorps members say that it was a treat for us to be around certainly renewed a sense of worth and community within the AmeriFamily of which we are apart. Going forward, our hope is that we live up to the good example they have set for us on their island.
Chris Gomon, Crew Leader Emergency Response Team