Alexandria, Va. — In an effort to mitigate the devastating impact of natural disasters, Catholic Charities USA (CCUSA) hosted a Resilience AmeriCorps Training Academy at its office in Alexandria, Va. The training follows upon the May 2016 announcement by the Office of Management and Budget Director Shaun Donovan and the Corporation for National & Community Service (CNCS) to expand its Resilience AmeriCorps program, which helps communities plan and implement efforts necessary to become more resilient to extreme weather events and other disasters.
Across America, natural disasters are becoming more pervasive, and more costly, both in terms of human casualties and financially. Year to date there have been 12 weather and climate disasters, markedly above the annual average of 5.2 events. Collectively, the impact has been staggering; 68 people were killed and financial losses exceeded $1 billion for each event (NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) U.S. Billion-Dollar Weather and Climate Disasters, 2016).
Participants in the Academy included supervisors from 4 organizations – Catholic Charities, Lutheran Services in America, Cities of Service and the New York Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery – and VISTA members who have accepted assignments with the organizations. The training focused on the knowledge and tools needed to build capacity for disaster resilience. Catholic Charities agencies will specifically work in their respective communities to more effectively engage populations that live in high disaster risk areas and have limited English proficiency (LEP).
VISTA members are placed with a low income community and live at a poverty level in order to get an understanding of the community’s daily life. While Catholic Charities VISTAs are working to help their LEP populations prepare for and increase resiliency to natural disasters, their efforts will be strengthened and developed through many partnerships, especially with local emergency management.
Sister Donna Markham OP, PhD, President and CEO of CCUSA, welcomed the participants on Thursday. She thanked them for their service saying, “If we as a nation feel the need for a sign of hope, then all we have to do is consider the generous and selfless contribution people like you are making to help those who are poor and vulnerable live more dignified lives.”
Catholic Charities has 10 agencies that are involved for three years with the program. The agencies are Central Florida, Venice (Fla.), Southern Missouri, Kansas City-St. Joseph, Camden, Oklahoma City, Galveston-Houston, Fort Worth, Spokane, and Charleston. Six agencies have VISTAs already in service and recruitment is ongoing for the other 4 locations.