Modeled on the Depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps, the AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) is a crack team of young volunteers assigned to work on urgent short-term projects. Volunteers between the ages of 18 and 24 live and train at one of five NCCC campuses, which work a bit like military bases. (The campuses are organized by region, and volunteers -- although they may receive a child-care allowance -- are not permitted to bring their children to live with them.) When a need arises, teams of 10 to 12 volunteers are deployed to help.
With what sort of problem might the team be helping? It might be a natural disaster, or a critical environmental cleanup. NCCC volunteers also work to fix problems in education, public safety and homeland security. The NCCC has a catch-all sixth category, "unmet needs," that conveniently covers most other possibilities.
In essence, the NCCC program functions something like community triage. NCCC volunteers receive training in rapid-response skills, including CPR and first aid, as well as emergency recovery. Whereas an AmeriCorps volunteer would be with a community for an entire year, an NCCC volunteer is typically on the scene for no more than six or eight weeks. You can think of an NCCC volunteer as an emergency medical technician, in contrast to the AmeriCorps volunteer, who is more like a long-term physician.
A year of NCCC work includes a minimum of 1,700 hours of service. Volunteers must function well within their teams and communities, and must be able to adjust to sudden changes and upheavals. Still, one AmeriCorps NCCC volunteer, Margaret, calls it "the best experience of my life" [source: Planet Gap Year].
On the next page, we'll look at the volunteer opportunities available to people who aren't U.S. citizens.