Caption: Neildino (far left) and his team Wave Five on the AmeriCorps NCCC campus in Vicksburg, Mississippi.
FEMA Corps Member Sophia Tausanovitch shares the story of fellow FEMA Corps Member Neildino Tausanovitch.
At 19 years old, Neildino Tausanovitch, or Neil as his teammates call him, found himself over 7,525 miles from home. Traveling from the island of Saipan to the continental U.S., Neil was going to spend a year in service with the FEMA Corps program. Almost immediately, his team and was deployed to a federal Joint Field Office in Baton Rouge, Louisiana to assist with recovery from Hurricane Laura, a category four storm that devastated parts of southwest Louisiana.
Neil was no stranger to the devastation that a disaster can cause. In 2015, his island was hit by Typhoon Soudelor, one of the strongest storms in 30 years. The equivalent of a category four hurricane, Soudelor produced wind gusts of over 160 miles per hour and devastated the island.
“My homestead is almost like a pile house, you can lift it,” said Neil. “So I was asleep while the typhoon was going on and we thought this wouldn’t affect us. But then the house started feeling like it was getting lifted and then the floor just decided to WOOSH… the house was shaking and then my bed fell through the floor and we could’ve flown away but the trees behind our house locked us down. We were ok but we had to evacuate.”
Due to the island’s vulnerability to storm threats, many homes in Saipan are built without concrete or set-in-stone foundations so that they might be moved.
After losing one home to disaster, Neil and his family moved to their family ranch nearby on the island; however, three years later they found themselves struck by yet another devastating typhoon, where they lost their second home.
“There were two FEMA Corps members who came to my island right after the disaster and they decided it was a good time to recruit people who are familiar with the process. It gets the right people with the right perspective,” he said.
Neil decided to apply to FEMA Corps, where he was accepted to serve for a 12-month term based out of the AmeriCorps NCCC campus in Vicksburg, Mississippi.
Like many of the hurricane survivors whom he supported through his FEMA Corps assignment in Baton Rouge, Neil and his family didn’t think that they’d ever have to evacuate their home for a disaster. “People tend to make decisions based on past experiences, and if the last typhoon missed their area, they assume the next one will too” Neil said.
While in Baton Rouge, Neil and his team worked to support the FEMA’s External Affairs with their response. Previously, they were deployed to Atlanta, where they facilitated virtual, COVID-19 safe trainings to equip FEMA staff and responders with important skills for the field.
FEMA Corps is a 12-month, full-time, team-based residential service program. FEMA Corps is for young adults ages 18-26 who want to gain professional skills in emergency management while serving with FEMA staff on disaster preparedness, mitigation, response and recovery efforts. Teams will travel across the country to respond to different disaster areas as needed.
Visit the Americorps website for more information on how to apply.