When Fady Tawadrous graduated from Augusta University in 2013, he knew working for the government and being a public servant interested him. He did a year of service with the AmeriCorps program FEMA Corps. It was there he saw firsthand what the Federal Emergency Management Agency did. Now, he’s an advisor to the associate administrator for response and recovery at FEMA.
“Within my scope, we mostly focus on response and recovery missions, the initial life-saving, life-sustaining, the right after an incident, right after a disaster. Then, the long tail end, getting cities and states and local governments back on their feet,” said Tawadrous. “My primary role is to understand all policies and doctrines and programs, both inward facing but also survivor centric and be able to articulate those requirements to the administrator and give proper advice as to what we should be doing, and how we can increase equity in our programs, and what’s working for survivors.”
The first major disaster he went to was Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. He said it was “almost life changing” and was an experience like nothing he’s seen since.
“That really opened my eyes to the true work. At the end of the day the real work is done by helping people, real people, essentially on their worst day of their lives. It helps you understand what you are doing a little more when you can actually see the people you are affecting from day one.”
He was also at the site of a tornado in south Georgia in 2018. Tawadrous was wearing his FEMA shirt when a woman, whose house had been destroyed, walked right up to him.
“I was like hey, can I help you? And the first thing she did was give me a hug. I was kind of stunned for a minute and she was just like, ‘I’m really glad you’re here,’” said Tawadrous “That’ll stick with you forever.”
Many people think of FEMA as the team that comes in to help with natural disasters — hurricanes and tornadoes. In reality, they do a lot more.
“I’ve seen FEMA assist with the humanitarian border crises on the southern border. We’ve helped with COVID-19 response and we’re still working on that. Whether it’s the vaccination mission, or in the initial days getting the logistics systems back up to par. And of course providing PPE to both hospitals and states.”
FEMA’s role in COVID-19 response has also changed since the onset.
“It’s all about what the states need. The administration has requirements, but our job is to support the states.”
Tawadrous was a political science major at Pamplin College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences, which he said helped put him on the right track.
“The skills I learned at Augusta University when it comes to just the diversity of people that I was exposed to during my years there, I take those experiences and those skills with me every single day.”