HOWARD’S HELPING HANDS: FORMER RAM SERVING THROUGH DISASTER RELIEF ORGANIZATION

There's not a soul in this world that sat in front of a TV this past month and wasn't compelled in some way to try and help the victims of the massive tornadoes that hit Oklahoma. That could be said after Hurricane Sandy hit the Jersey Shore or Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. Disasters seem to be more prevalent than ever before, leaving many yearning to help in some way or another.

Former VCU women's soccer player Cara Howard is doing just that. The Newport News, Va. native is two months into her job as a Reporting Analyst at National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NVOAD), a non-profit, non-partisan membership based organization that serves as the forum where organizations share knowledge and resources throughout the disaster cycle.

"While I'm not on the ground at these disaster sites, I try and help gather information and enhance the awareness about the relief and recovery efforts," Howard said. "Our work at NVOAD allows our member organizations to directly respond and help with recovery efforts in all parts of the country. "

Although Howard has only been with NVOAD for two months, she's quickly learning that she must stay ready, because Mother Nature can strike at anytime.

"During a disaster event, things are extremely hectic and require all of our energy, so you have to be ready to go at all times," Howard said. "I was planning on moving into my new apartment up here on the day the Oklahoma tornadoes hit, but I had to switch gears and head to FEMA's National Response Coordination Center right away. You just never know what each day will bring."

In the midst of trying to put together response and recovery for these disasters, Howard relies on the lessons and values she learned while playing for the Black & Gold.

"In order for all these organizations to come together and accomplish the things that need to be accomplished, communications and coordination are imperative," Howard said. "We have core principals here at NVOAD and it's exactly like my time at VCU. We had core values for the program and in order to reach our final goals we had to make sure that everyone was committed to those core values.  Teamwork is so important in all workplaces, but even more than usual here and I often feel like I'm a step ahead after playing on different teams throughout my soccer career."

While on a much different scale, Howard is no stranger to adversity herself. During her time with the Rams, she underwent two ACL surgeries and three MCL tears. She knows just how much hard work needs to be put in, and also knows how rewarding it is when things are getting accomplished.

"The most rewarding part of the job and the reason I wanted to be involved with NVOAD is because I know that somehow I'm making a difference in different communities," Howard said. "Not everyone can be on the ground lending helping hands, so to be able to just be a small part of a recovery is something that is special to me."

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