Everything is Subject to Change, Notes from Polar Pack

May 2020

Everything is Subject to Change

I’ve been in TXCC for almost two years. One thing that I’ve learned from my many months of service is that, more often than not, we work on the fly. Projects change from week to week, sometimes even daily, and the prospect of deployment looms over the heads of our Disaster and Conservation Crews, promising to upend our schedules and plans at any given moment. My old field coordinator would print out a piece of paper during our many deployments last season with the words “Everything is subject to change.” Sometimes they would be accompanied by a picture of the Buddha. I was thus surprised to realize that in early March my crew had our projects scheduled out for weeks ahead. Three weeks building a trail at an Austin park, and a further three weeks on hitch near the Balcones Canyonlands. What luxury, to be able to plan out for work and personal life so far ahead, our project work cemented in the calendar.

Everything is subject to change.

Less than a week later, field operations shut down as the now infamous coronavirus began spreading in Austin. TXCC moved to teleservice, and now, 9 weeks later, I haven’t picked up a hand tool or seen the office since our last day of field operations. Now, more than ever, uncertainty and flexibility really is the name of the game for TXCC. For a few days we didn’t really know what was going to happen. As members huddled in their homes, I can only imagine a frantic convening (virtually, most likely) of staff, field coordinators, and directors discussing possible service options, administrators calculating funds, and the long-term viability of a prolonged quarantine.

More than two months later, there is still uncertainty, still confused, but life and service continue. We have been provided a smörgåsbord of teleservice and training options, from wildland firefighting and disaster management courses to citizen science and writing letters to first responders and senior citizens. Recently, a new phase of service has been opened up to many of our members, who are now participating in a “local deployment,” serving at various distribution centers and performing administrative tasks for Travis County. Other members have begun training for and initiating contact tracing as part of Americorps’ largest-ever disaster response activity. They join thousands of other AmeriCorps members across the country in an effort to track and slow the spread of the virus.

In many ways, this term has been unexpected, especially for my crew, Polar Pack. We started out with no co-leader, and we have lost and gained crewmates, more so than our sister crews. Now, in the midst of a pandemic, we are serving in ways that no other TXCC crews have served before. This term definitely didn’t pan out as I thought it would. On the other hand, this term has strangely embodied the very spirit of a Conservation and Disaster Crew: continued service in the midst of uncertainty. Though my crew has been through much, they are still getting things done. And I’m sure they will by now have learned the lesson I learned in my first year: Everything is subject to change.

By Polar Pack Crew Leader Carlos Leos

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