Mass Care/Sheltering… Lost… insomnia…

So now I’ve completed a four-hour double course in Mass Care and Sheltering from the Red Cross. We learned that everybody the Red Cross serves is a “client” and not a “victim.” Even the world’s largest humanitarian organization is consumer-friendly. But we also learned that Red Cross shelters are specifically designed to accommodate just enough people to be humane without being comfy. For instance, the standard-issue cot is small, hard, and comes without a pillow. We want our “clients” to be just uncomfortable enough to not overstay their welcome — as long as they have somewhere else to go.

Anyway, I guess I’m officially certified to be a shelter volunteer. We have one more step before we’re deployed, which is a short meeting on the specifics of deployment to the hurricane zone (which could well be Rita zone, the way things are going). At that meeting we’ll tell the Red Cross our preference for duty and our availability, and they’ll tell us how things work with what & how to pack, transportation, rental cars, etc. Supposedly, once we’re on call, we’ll have only 24 hours’ notice before being “shipped out.”

I think I’d like to work in an ERV. That’s one of those big trucks kinda like ambulances that go out into the devastated communities and deliver food, ice, water, and meals to those that need them. They also act as sort of forward observers, talking to people and finding out general needs. (Like if a new shelter needs to be set up.) Failing that, I could work in a shelter, helping set up cots, and keeping things organized and running smoothly. But I’ll take whatever assignment they give me.

Assuming everything moves along apace, I could be leaving for the Gulf in as little as a week’s time. Right now, despite the training, it all seems very far off and unreal. No amount of manuals, photographs, or verbal descriptions can evoke what it is really like down there.

Right at the start of the training session, the instructor commented on how tonight was the season premiere of Lost, and we were all missing it. Many in the class groaned in recognition. (I taped it.) It’s probably not a coincidence that a group of folks willing to volunteer in a devastated flood zone are fans of a TV show about a group of airplane crash survivors on a menacing deserted island. Life imitating art, right?

I feel calm, but for some reason I can’t sleep. It’s 4 a.m. and I really should be in bed.

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About joshcomix
Brooklyn-based cartoonist specializing in nonfiction comics about topics like Hurricane Katrina, the media, travel, and finance.

14 Responses to Mass Care/Sheltering… Lost… insomnia…

  1. thamesrhodes says:

    You are an inspiration!

  2. al_monster says:

    So interesting – clients/hard cots. Important to retain/encourage people’s dignity.
    When I’m awake at 4 AM, I think about what’s going on and am comforted by the efforts of people who bring aid and that somehow we are all part of one whole. Thanks for bringing it (my mother would correct that to taking it). You’re a good egg.

  3. deadredfred says:

    This only sounds like the beginning of the story. I hope it turns out with a good ending!

  4. tigerbright says:

    Hi, I was browsing through who added LaGuardia/M&A as a school, and came across you. We overlapped slightly; I was a freshman in 1984-85.
    Kudos to you on being willing to volunteer with the Red Cross and go and help the people in the flood zone. My first reaction was, “Drat, I can’t go, I have a newborn.”

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