Civil leave program offers chance to help flood victims

by Kalani Simpson, UNMC public relations | June 07, 2019

Image with caption: Jessica Semin, far left, and her group of volunteers

Jessica Semin, far left, and her group of volunteers

Jessica Semin, clinical research regulatory coordinator, geriatrics, was one of the first UNMC employees to take advantage of the university's new civil leave program to volunteer in flood recovery efforts. She volunteered the week of May 1 to help with cleanup and recovery in her own neighborhood, in the Hanson Lake area of Bellevue.

Under the program, employees can receive up to 40 hours of civil leave to volunteer in flood recovery efforts. Leave requests must be approved by an employee's supervisor, and must be coordinated through the appropriate campus volunteer coordinator, listed here. The one-time leave allowance will be available to employees until further notice from the NU President's Office.

See the Nebraska flood information resources.

See the Iowa flood information resources.

Additionally, the university has created a Flood Recovery Serviceship program that will place up to 50 students in impacted communities this summer to work directly with local leaders on recovery efforts.

Semin said the opportunity to do this type of work in her own neighborhood was especially meaningful -- and it made her feel more a part of the community.

"I didn't know them," she said of some of the people she helped with flood recovery, "but I'd drive by their house every day.

"I got to meet some of my neighbors."

Semin said she got started when she saw a crew of Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) volunteers in the area, and simply walked up to them. SBDR volunteers travel the country in the wake of natural disasters, assisting survivors with cleanup and healing.

"They said, 'Yeah, we would love to have a volunteer,' " Semin said. "I basically joined their team for a week."

While these folks knew disaster relief, Semin offered a local perspective -- and, as a graduate of the College of Public Health (COPH), public health expertise.

She'd also reached out to public health faculty members, Ellen Duysen and Aaron Yoder, Ph.D., and attended a COPH informational session on the dangers of going back in after a flood -- particularly the importance of PPE (personal protective equipment) and taking care of yourself, Semin said.

Semin recommends participating in the civil leave program, for those who can find a time that works for themselves and their co-workers. "The feeling that you get for helping people who have gone through horrible times is something you can't get anywhere else," she said.

And, it could have an application to our day-to-day work, as well.

"It gives you a deeper appreciation for what our patients might be experiencing, when they walk through the door," she said.

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Susan Kotas
June 13, 2019 at 12:07 PM

Go Jess! She has the heart of a Husker, thanks for helping keep Nebraska Strong!