Dear Service Colleagues:
The Deepwater Horizon BP Oil Spill is one of the most challenging environmental disasters that the country has faced. The communities whose livelihoods are dependent upon the Gulf of Mexico are being severely affected by the oil spill. Demand for clothing, food, employment assistance and crisis counseling, and other social services are mounting. The Corporation’s primary focus in the wake of the disaster is to help mitigate immediate and long-term human, economic and environmental needs through direct service and mobilization and coordination of community volunteers.
Through its national service programs, the agency is working with Gulf Coast state service commissions and community organizations to expand their operational capacity and develop strategies to recruit and manage volunteers. To date, volunteers and national service participants have been involved in diverse response activities ranging from lining the shores of the Gulf, monitoring coastlines, pre-landfall beach clean-up, providing safety net services, operating and staffing Volunteer Reception Centers, and hosting career fairs for displaced workers.
The complex nature of oil cleanup, coupled with health and safety concerns, restricts the role of volunteers. The Deepwater Unified Area Command under the direction of Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen has specified that volunteers or unpaid individuals are not allowed to perform hands-on hazardous waste remediation. However, disasters have long-term effects on individuals and communities that are often unpredictable and heighten with time. Because of the intensive and sustained nature of national service programs, national service’s impact is felt long after the initial phase of the disaster.
The Corporation is launching a multi-faceted, long-term effort to build the capacity of Gulf communities and nonprofits to meet the increasing demand for social services and environmental challenges over the long haul. The agency’s strategy will focus on:
-Assessing the impact of the oil spill on area residents to determine the most effective deployment of volunteers.
-Enhancing volunteer recruitment, management and coordination capacity of nonprofits to strengthen the impact of volunteer service.
-Enhancing nonprofit capacity to strengthen the health and economic status of communities.
-Enhancing nonprofit capacity to supplement environmental cleanup efforts.
-Building public awareness of local environmental hazards resulting from the oil spill and disaster preparedness efforts as hurricane season approaches to enhance public safety.
The call for volunteers is expected to grow considerably over time. At the moment, interested volunteers should focus on connecting with human service agencies and nonprofits in the region that are experiencing increased demand due to the effects of the oil spill. Click here to read the Corporation’s strategy to respond to the BP oil spill. Volunteers should visit Serve.gov to register for service opportunities through the links to the Gulf Coast state service commission websites.
Kristin McSwain Mikel Herrington
Chief of Program Operations Director NCCC