two people in cold weather gear inspect an object during a Site Visit, Hooper Bay, AK
On a site visit to Kipnuk, I participated in story time with little ones.
On a site visit to Kipnuk, I participated in story time before an afterschool youth group presentation.

I came to my year of VISTA service for The Resource Basket with an active curiosity; a curiosity rewarded with professional development, the opportunity to travel to rural villages and learn about Alaska Native culture. My husband and I moved from central Arkansas to serve with the AmeriCorps VISTA program in Anchorage. I had the honor of serving with The Resource Basket: Gathering and Sharing for Alaska Native Youth Success.

I have found my tasks and objectives to be incredibly rewarding; my service year will be complete in August, 2014.The Resource Basket is recruiting another positive, independent and
team-player,with strong organization and technical skills for November 2014-2015.

two youth sit on the floor working on a beaver skin
While researching and promoting The Resource Basket I was able to observe and participate in the Native Survivors Youth Group. The youth is learning to skin beaver hide. Hooper Bay, 2013 Photo: Sarah Benson

AmeriCorps VISTA members are passionate and committed to their mission to bring individuals and communities out of poverty.  Members make a year-long, full-time commitment to serve on a specific project at a nonprofit organization or public agency. AmeriCorps VISTA members receive a living allowance and health benefits during their service, and have the option of receiving a Segal AmeriCorps Education Award or post-service stipend after completing their service.

This first year for The Resource Basket VISTA, established the foundation for a sustainable program. During my service year, this website (www.alaskanativeyouth.org) was developed including design and content, a promotional plan was organized and implemented, and trainings were delivered. We have been able to provide resources that promote wellness, prevention and positive youth development.  The new Resource Basket VISTA will assist with creating online and long-distance trainings for rural Alaska, increase online interactions for productive dialogue and story-sharing, and adapt resource tools and materials for rural Alaska.

Kipnuk, Alaska, Spring 2014
Kipnuk, 2014 – Photo: Sarah Benson

A VISTA position builds capacity through indirect service; the behind the scenes, strategic planning and project development for an organization. My position required most of my time to be spent in a positive office environment, but I also had the opportunity to travel to rural Alaska. I had little knowledge of Alaska history or Native culture before arriving for my service year, RurAL CAP and The Resource Basket Advisory group prepared me for rural travel by providing an excellent orientation to the history and culture of Alaska. I traveled to communities such as Shishmaref, Kipnuk, Quinhagak and Hooper Bay, Alaska.

I researched technology, assisted with trainings and observed youth development groups in action. I gained a deeper understanding of rural life; I learned from community leaders, Elders and youth. In Hooper Bay, I observed Elders telling stories; they advised the youth to practice their Yu’pik language, they shared stories of growing up, the hardships, as well as lessons learned.  The youth group went on that afternoon to construct fishing traps for blackfish. I observed culturally relevant youth programs, gain valuable insights into the reasons for the success of these programs, and promoted The Resource Basket Technical Training and Assistance Center.  I was able to document and share individual success stories from inspiring youth leaders in these rural communities.  Many of these stories can now be found on The Resource Basket Success Story Page.

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Careful planning allowed me to  experience the Kenai Fjords.    Photo: Sarah Benson

Careful financial planning and scheduling allowed my husband and I to use the VISTA personal off time to explore Denali National Park, the Kenai Fjords and numerous parks and trails.  We also had the opportunity to view the ceremonial start of 2014 Iditarod and participate in the Fur Rendezvous Festival.  Traveling to Alaska, observing wildlife and participating in these historic activities rewarded us with great memories and exciting life experiences.

I will never forget the pride, success and honor I felt amongst the group of Elders and youth in Hooper Bay and throughout communities in rural Alaska. I am proud to have served with The Resource Basket, supporting adults that serve rural Alaska Native Youth. Communities have the capacity for wellness and The Resource Basket now provides the tools.

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Napaskiak 2014 – Photo: Sarah Benson

The Resource Basket has been able to provide trainings and support rural community members to travel to trainings regarding youth related project development and technical writing skills, as well as effective tribal youth program training.  Community members can seek support through our T/TA Center as well share the positive, the successes of their communities. These opportunities can change communities, build programs, and support the youth.

 

From my year of service, I am taking away exposure to a culture different than my own, web development experience, training coordination and development, communication skills, a worldly perspective and professional references. I now have knowledge of: youth development and prevention principles, resiliency, early intervention and diversion, historical trauma, and the concept of community wellness and readiness.

By serving as a VISTA, you’ll be strengthening The Resource Basket so it can continue to serve the needs of the community. Benefits also include a monthly living allowance, relocation costs, a settling in allowance health benefits, child care assistance (if eligible) and an Education Award.  The Resource Basket VISTA is a national service position and is based at RurAL CAP, a statewide non-profit in Anchorage, Alaska. The full-time Resource Basket VISTA will assist RurAL CAP staff with the research, maintenance and ongoing contributions to a Training and Technical Assistance (TTA) Resource Center.  The deadline to apply is October 3, 2014. Click here to apply online. For further information, contact Amy Gorn at RurAL CAP: 907.865.7360 and agorn@ruralcap.com.

Special thanks to: The Resource Basket Team, RurAL CAP Staff, The Resource Basket Advisory Group, Jen Wilson, Wilma Bell-Joe and Jaime Active.

Respectfully Submitted,

Sarah Benson