August 12th, 2016 is a day Louisiana residents will never forget. What started off as just another Louisiana rainstorm, quickly took a turn for the worse and flooded our city. Today we are reflecting on the past year and commemorating three City Year Baton Rouge village members who stayed strong and persevered during a difficult time.
Name, title, and length of time with CYBR
Tyler Aitken, Senior AmeriCorps Member, one year with CYBR
Shawana Taylor- Walker, Senior Impact Manager and I’m going into my second year with City Year Baton Rouge
Stephanie Taylor-Stell, Impact Director. I have been with City Year for 2 years and 2 months.
What was the biggest struggle during this last year? And your biggest strength?
TA: My biggest struggle last year was accepting the assistance of others. After the flood, it became extremely difficult finding a place to stay. I was offered shelter by friends, yet I refused them because I felt as though I was a burden to others. I had too much pride and I was quite uncomfortable when it came to others helping me in any way. Because of this, I spent over two months in a shelter and then moved a couple times after that. My biggest strength would have been my ability to come to work and leave my worries at home. I used my work with City Year to keep my mind occupied while I pushed through the stress that came with the flood.
STW: Of course my biggest struggle was facing homelessness only 3 days into our service year. Not only was I homeless but I also had 4 children who lost all of their earthly possession. They had just began school and seeing them struggle with this extremely traumatic event broke my heart. I felt powerless during the first few months after the flood. My biggest strength was my faith in God, trusting that he would provide my family and me with everything that we needed to recover from the flood.
STS: My biggest struggle was trying to be strong for others when I felt like I was in a million pieces on the inside. My biggest strength was my family, my church and City Year. They were all there for me at my lowest point.
What has this past year taught you, professionally or personally?
TA: Professionally, I was taught that there is a job to be done no matter what obstacles are thrown our way. Even though I had tragedy in my own life, I knew there were others to be served who had endured the same, if not worse of tragedies. Personally, I was taught that with the right support system and self-care, we can overcome these unexpected events. I also learned that it is okay to be selfish at times. Understanding our job requires a selfless person, I knew when it was time to take care of myself.
STW: This last service year has taught me to cherish my family and friends. Material things can be recovered and replaced, but the people in your life are truly precious.
STS: Professionally I have learned that self-care has to be a priority for myself and my team. When I am working I need to be able to give 150%. If I'm stressed, worrying or not sleeping, I can't function in the capacity that I need too. Personally, material things don't matter to me anymore. Things come and go but life, laughter and love is what really matters.
What support system did you have to get you through this last year?
TA: I don't have as many people to look to for support in my life, therefore I really counted on my team to fill that space, and that is exactly what they did. They filled my days with many laughs, and my nights with lots of movies. My Impact Manager helped me countless times, from picking me up from my previously flooded home, to taking the time to listen when I really just needed to vent. If it weren't for my team and their endless support, this year would have been a much harder experience.
STW: I had various support systems : City Year both local and nationally, my church Greater King David Baptist church, other local churches, FEMA, EBR Parish school system, my sisters (Stephanie Taylor-Stell, Timinirra James .. who also flooded), other family and friends.
STS: My City Year peeps were like my backbone. My team with the help of a few great friends gutted my entire house after the flood. My Executive Director (Ryann) and my Managing Director (Verdie) met us at Home Depot to get cleaning supplies, garbage bags, laundry detergent, etc. They will NEVER know how huge those moments were in our recovery. I have enough bleach for 5 years! LOL.
If you could go back to last year before the flood, what piece of advice would you give to yourself knowing what you do now?
TA: If I could go back, I would have encouraged myself to allow others to help me and stop doing things alone. I would have recovered much faster if I utilized those who were there to help, but instead I was stubborn with the way I approached assistance. I was afraid of judgement and losing confidence, but that is something I should not have been worried about when my health and safety is most important.
STW: Knowing that God has a plan for all our lives and everything happen for a reason, the only advice I would give myself would be to place all of my children's pictures, school certificates, and my degrees in a water tight container in the attic. The memories that they held were my most precious treasures!!
STS: I would say Stephanie time heals all wounds. There is a silver lining behind every cloud. If you have vacation days TAKE THEM!