We call our volunteers Community Caretakers, since that is really what they are. So what’s it like to be a Community Caretaker with the Cajun Navy Ground Force?
EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED
Anything is possible when it comes to relief work, especially during crisis mode. The best thing is to not have many expectations besides to serve in any way that you are able. Sometimes it’s intense, sometimes you just need to be there to listen, but make sure to find time to have fun, too.
Because it’s a communal environment, people make new family and friends with people from all over the country. At times, you may be sleeping on air mattresses in a tent, and showering with bottled water, but this makes us realize our own capabilities! Expect that the experience will change, emotionally and physically, and you will come out stronger on the other end.
In times of disaster, community members that may have been strangers step up and help each other. It’s the same in the volunteer community – you may be serving next to someone you never met, but you will share a life-changing experience together and will forever be bonded because of it.
There are days we plan and plans change, the needs are always changing, Community Caretakers are coming and going, but we try our best to stay positive and meet the needs. The joy in the faces of the people is what keeps us motivated. When a community is vulnerable, any attention is valued. As a Community Caretaker, you feel the connection and it can be really rewarding!
Because we work based on the needs of the community, the typical work day varies. When disaster strikes we make sure community members are safe, so we may need to do rescues. From there we work on clean-up and getting supplies to the community. Clean-up usually involves using chainsaws to clear tree debris from the road, and clearing the way for people to get in and out of their homes.
In the meantime there may be Community Caretakers that stay around the staffing area to receive and distribute donations. Some people are sent out on wellness checks or deliver supplies directly to those who are in need but cannot get to us, usually elderly or disabled people.
Other work includes cooking, serving food, cleaning, organizing, tarping, delivering, running errands, documenting, social media, scouting jobs, and much more!
We cannot give any guarantees about the specific work you’ll be doing, and there are always things that don’t work out as planned, so we need individuals who are flexible, empathetic, and can stay positive!
The food is covered for the Community Caretakers. Some days it’s packed lunches out on the job, evenings we try to do communal dinners. Sometimes we have someone on duty that only does the cooking and other times we coordinate amongst ourselves when we do group dinners. We also allow chances for individuals to cook their own meals.
We try to make sure there are different options available in the communal pantry. Volunteers are able to bring their own food if they have specific foods they would like. Sometimes we eat canned foods because that is our only option, especially right after a storm. We also receive a lot of food via donations, so it depends what we are receiving.
Housing is provided for Community Caretakers and can change, sometimes at a moment’s notice. Right after a storm hits we are usually staged in an outdoor space, sometimes hotels will offer some rooms to our Community Caretakers and sometimes we are housed in a local business where we can store supplies, have a sleeping area, and showers. We try to maintain communal space and private space, so Community Caretakers can take a break from the group if they want.
This is time we let the individual decide. Some are better with spending time with the Community Caretakers that are around and others enjoy alone time. During downtime there is usually something the group is doing, whether it’s playing cards or just getting to know each other. Some Community Caretakers enjoy quiet time and reading books, but either way the volunteers should be able to “entertain” themselves. After an intense day of helping the community, it is important for Community Caretakers to respect each other’s time, energy, and need for privacy.
“I find myself and others speaking of all the new things they learn, never realized they could do.”
“As a volunteer we accept the challenge to serve in whatever capacity we can to the best of our ability with love.”
“We can not guarantee anything, but we can guarantee that we’ll try.”
HOW TO BECOME A COMMUNITY CARETAKER
Click here to go to our volunteer sign-up form
You’ll be contacted by our Volunteer Coordinator Lauren who will help you get through the vetting process. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.
We hope to see you soon!