4th of July weekend!

Independence Day and Qatnut in rural Alaska is the biggest celebration of the year that lasts multiple days. Kotzebue has a traditional trade fair with a parade, contests, events, activities, Dance groups, the list goes on and on.   

Seward has a Mt. Marathon Race where they have had up to 30,000 people attend. Anchorage has a parade and picnic fare. Wasilla has a pie eating contest. Every village has their traditions, but they still take the time to pay tribute to their culture. 

From the blanket toss...

to traditional dances, Qatnut celebrates all of Alaska's cultural traditions. Qatnut translates into "bringing people together" and was originally held at camp Sisaulik. Inupiaq tribes from the Kotzebue Sound, Shishmaref, Point Hope and Wales celebrate it every year. 

Events like the Kotzebue Qatnut Trade Fair, and the larger, deeper, ageless, and unbreakable bonds that they represent; tradition, culture, sharing, friendship, and mutual respect can overcome decades and even centuries of separation and dislocation. As these relationships continue to grow ever deeper and meaningful to the contemporary residents, the community of Kotzebue will continue their effort at sustaining these emerging linkages while paying homage to ancient relationships and values.

References: 

  • http://www.thearcticsounder.com/article/1327kotzebue_celebrates_qatnut_togetherness
  • http://www.adn.com/multimedia/slideshow/photos-kotzebue-celebrates-qatnut-july-4th/2015/07/07/
  • https://www.nps.gov/akso/beringia/about/spotlight/Qatnut_article.cfm

Early Childhood Learning

 Early childhood education includes the child’s learning environments during the ages of birth to five.

(Author:  Tracey Schaeffer)

 

That environment does not have to be in a preschool setting or include any special curriculum, it is most often the home environment and provided by the family. The things that happen during this time can have an effect of the child’s life, on the choices they make and their ability to ‘bounce back’ from challenges, also called resilience.

There are many people exploring the things that lead people to success in life, those are often called positive protective factors as they can protect a child, and the person they become from making choices that lead to challenges in life. Some examples of positive protective factors include: having your needs met in your home as a young child, having both parents at home, not experiencing violence, a safe and connected community with opportunities for meaningful engagement. 

 

In rural Alaska, the possibilities for a rich early childhood experience are very abundant! Looking at Inupiaq culture and subsistence there are many traditions and opportunities that will help your child develop resilience and have the opportunity to experience success. Young babies thrive on love and attention. They love to look at your face and taking time to sing and talk to your baby will help your baby feel safe and connected to you. The Inupiaq tradition of nuniaq is a little rhyme/song that a parent or relative makes up for a new baby and it stays with them as they grow, strengthening that attachment and the special bond between them.  

 

Give your baby opportunities to play on the floor and move around, it will help strengthen their bodies and develop curiosity about their environment. Being exposed to the Inupiaq language is wonderful during the first few years of a child’s life. Their brain is ready to absorb and learn, so getting your baby together with relative who can speak Inupiaq with them is a wonderful opportunity for brain development. Toddlers love to explore, so helping them safely get outside and play in the grass, in the sand, feel the leaves, smell the flowers and even splash in the water and squish mud. Talking about how things look, feel, and smell will help them develop their language, cognitive and sensory skills.  Spending time with them will make this curious exploration even more special. 

 

As children get older teaching them chores at home and at camp will help them learn responsibility and the satisfaction of a job well done.  Teach them how to do simple chores and give them praise for doing it right. There is always a place for children to get involved in subsistence activities. While it might take more time to have your child involved in the process of picking, skinning, processing and putting away food it will strengthen their self esteem as they will have a strong cultural connection, not to mention the skills to take over as you get ready to retire. 

 

Last but not least for sure if taking time to have fun and be active, take a walk down the beach when you are at camp, teach your child to skip rocks, play a game of Norwegian, shoot some hoops. The time together and developing a habit of healthy activity will stay with them for a lifetime. 

 

Children can have full, rich early childhood educational opportunities at home, in your village, at camp and all throughout Alaska!

This Blog Post is Brought to you by Guest Blogger, Tracey Schaeffer.  Thanks Tracey!

Take Back Our Communities!

One of our goals of ACT is to help you create the healthiest community possible. What does that mean to you?

 

Domestic Violence: 

A 2010 survey of adult women in the State of Alaska showed that 37/100 women experienced sexual assault and 59/100 women experienced domestic violence...

According to the Alaska Network on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault (ANDVSA), primary prevention, or stopping violence before it starts, is a simple enough concept on the surface, but to be able to successfully implement prevention strategies in your community, it is helpful to understand the concepts that drive prevention. Their website is a great resource for learning prevention strategies for your community.  They have seven free video modules to give your tools, suggestions, and support on how to mobilize your community, implement solutions, and evaluate you success. 

ANDVSA also has a handout on organizing your community

Substance Abuse and Underage Drinking:

Across the board (all ages) Alaska has one of the highest per capita alcohol consumption rates in the nation and the prevalence of alcohol dependence and alcohol abuse, at 14%, is twice the national average of 7% (Gallup Corp. Telephone survey for DHSS, ADA).

Substance use/abuse has a profound impact on Alaska’s youth. It contributes to injuries, school drop out rates, teen pregnancy, interpersonal violence, suicide attempts, depression, youth crime and many other social problems. The good news is that we are beginning to see decreases in most of the youth behavior problems due primarily to the substance use and abuse rates declining.

The Best Methods:

  • Environmental and educational strategies help communities take an active role in addressing local issues of substance abuse. 
  • Culturally appropriate services promote greater success in our Alaska Native communities by implementing programs that incorporate traditional cultural values. 
  • Identification of a community’s risk and protective factors has lead to the use of the resiliency model that builds upon positive life skills and experiences, helping youth succeed despite growing up in a high-risk family or environment. 
  • More aggressive underage purchasing enforcement laws for both alcohol and tobacco reduce teen usage and adult purchasing for youth.
  • Greater emphasis on local option laws assist in giving communities more control of access to alcohol and drugs.

To learn more about "Alaska's Strategies to Prevent Underage Drinking"  Click Here.  This pdf has some AMAZING infographics.

 

Youth:

Getting kids and teens involved in the community will energize them to complete school and give back to their community. There were 2,141 dropouts in Alaska in 2015. That is the lowest dropout rate the state of Alaska has had since 1998! We need to keep that rate dropping by creating after school programs, tutoring for the kids that need help, and even having a mentorship program would be some ideas to get you started.

 

Resources:

Creating a Safety Plan

Whether it is you or someone you care about who is struggling with suicide, having a safety plan helps.

Always carry your Safety Plan with you.

Having a Safety Plan lets you know what you are going to do when you feel unsafe.

What is on a safety plan?

  1. What three things can I do to have fun and relax?
  2. What friends can I call when I am starting to feel sad or worried?
  3. What are my reasons for living? (Include cultural teachings that promote life)
  4. Who are my trusted resources I can call if I don’t feel better after talking with friends? (Like an Elder or spiritual leader, Community Health Representative, youth worker) Include their phone numbers.
  5. Where I can go that I feel safe from suicide? (Maybe a friend’s home, a local basketball court, a grandparent’s home.)
  6. What local professional can I call or go see? (Someone similar to a counsellor, school staff, health aid)
  7. What are my local crisis lines & suicide safe websites that I would use?
  8. What are my local emergency services and how do I contact them?

 How it works:

When you begin to feel sad, worried, blue…. 

  • Start at #1.
  • If #1 doesn’t help, then do #2.
  • If you are still thinking about suicide, then remind yourself of your reasons for living.
  • Continue with #3 - 7 as needed
  • If you have done #1 to #7 and still are thinking about suicide or feeling an urge, then call for help

Looking for Help?

Call 9-1-1 or seek immediate help from a mental health provider when you hear or see someone that is:

  • threatening to hurt or kill themselves
  • looking for ways to kill themselves (e.g., seeking access to pills, weapons or other means)
  • talking or writing about death, dying or suicide

Contact a mental health professional or call the Alaska Carline 877-266-HELP or text "4help" to 839963 for a referral should you witness, hear or see anyone with one or more of these behaviors:

  • hopelessness
  • rage, anger, seeking revenge
  • acting reckless or engaging in risky activities, seemingly without thinking
  • feeling trapped—like there's no way out increasing alcohol or drug use
  • withdrawing from friends, family or society
  • anxiety, agitation, unable to sleep or sleeping all the time
  •  dramatic mood changes
  • no reason for living; no sense of purpose in life

Resources

More information about suicide can be obtained from the following organizations:

What Does It Mean To Be A Youth Leader ?

The ACT Youth Leader program can be a vehicle for young people to harness their combined talents and energy and to become involved in decision-making that affects their individual lives and the lives of those in their community.  Youth Leaders can be anyone under the age of 25 who demonstrate interest in individual and/or community wellness; displays community awareness/involvement; is willing to commit time; and  is reliable, respectable and honest.  Youth Leaders will help develop and implement wellness activities and programs that they feel will have the greatest impact for their community.  They will work with Wellness Ambassadors on different activities and find other Youth Leaders to form a Youth Council.  

We want you to feel empowered, supported, honored, proud, purpose-filled, hopeful, and loved.  We want you to have the skills to help other youth and young adults to feel this way.  Youth Leaders will learn positive life skills, communication strategies, leadership skills, and a whole lot more. Sign up today to be part of something great!

Youth Leader Job Description:

Youth leaders are Alaskans under the age of 25 who demonstrate interest in individual and/or community wellness and are willing to commit time to wellness activities in their community. Youth Leaders will work with local Wellness Ambassadors and the Wellness Coalition on different activities and will identify and recruit other Youth Leaders to form a local Youth Council. Youth Leaders will be advised by the ACT Team who will provide guidance and direction, consultation, support and information. The ACT Youth Leader program can be a vehicle for young people to harness their combined talents and energy and to become involved in decision-making that affects their individual lives and the lives of those in their community.  

Youth Leader Characteristics:

 

  • Demonstrate an interest in individual and/or community wellness;
  • Willing to commit time;
  • Has an interest in being involved in their community;
  • Reliable, respectable and honest;
  • Belief that their community can work together to improve overall wellness, leading to a reduction in suicide, domestic violence, and sexual assault; and 
  • Ability to advocate for others and help them work towards a healthier lifestyle. 

Youth Leader Roles & Responsibilities:

  • Develop and implement wellness activities and programs for other youth;
  • Serve as a role model to other youth;
  • Work in coordination with Wellness Ambassadors and the Wellness Coalition;
  • Recruit other Youth Leaders;
  • Identify potential ideas, strategies, and programs for enhancing wellness; 
  • Help organize a minimum of 2-3 outreach activity per year;
  • Participate in a training whenever possible and available online, via teleconference, or in person;   
  • Share and post bi-monthly newsletters and flyers around your community; and  
  • Share your success and ideas with the ACT team! 

Youth Leader Benefits:

  • Be an active participate in co-creating a new paradigm of positive change for Alaska; 
  • Annual recognition for service as a Youth Leader; 
  • Develop leadership skills;
  • Learn positive life skills;
  • Learn communication strategies;
  • A network that provides motivation to stay committed to your own health and wellness goals; 
  • Receive occasional wellness goody bags; 
  • Opportunity to be on the cutting edge of an innovative program and to receive training; and  
  • Opportunity to compete for the XPrize award. 

Youth Leader Orientation & Training:

  • 1 hour orientation video; 
  • Ongoing monthly teleconference calls with other Youth Leaders within your region; 
  • Online videos posted on the website around specific topics in wellness; and  
  • Opportunity to attend regional Think Tank gatherings and one annual Think Tank gathering. 

Time Commitment:

  • The estimated monthly commitment is about five hours, and  
  • Youth Leaders are asked to commit to this role for a minimum of one year.

What Does it Mean To Be a Wellness Ambassador?

Wellness Ambassadors are Alaskans of all ages that desire to serve as a bridge between their communities and available wellness programs, activities, and resources. Being a Wellness Ambassador is a volunteer role created to help drive participation and engagement in wellness activities and empower Alaskans to unite to prevent not only suicide, domestic violence, and sexual assault, but to act as a positive and guiding light towards whole wellness.   Wellness Ambassadors are advised by the Alaskans Changing Together Team who will provide guidance and direction, consultation, support and information to Wellness Ambassadors.  

 

The Steps for Wellness Ambassadors:

  1. Find a couple of people that you feel would benefit from becoming Ambassadors.
  2. Create a wellness plan here 
  3. Share your plan with people who are going to support you. For example your fellow wellness ambassadors, your family, your friends and even people in your community.
  4. Use your action plan! Have your supporters help you track your progress.
  5. Forming a Wellness Coalition with other ambassadors will help your community grow and improve everyone's well being.
  6. Discuss what actions would benefit your community the most with other members of your Coalition.
  7. Once you have decided what your community needs you can work on create a wellness plan for your community and decide how you are going to achieve your goals.
  8. You need everyone to help in changing the community. "It takes a Village," IS NOT just a saying.
  9. Have patience and keep supporting everyone in your community. You will see changes!

 Common Characteristics of a Wellness Ambassador:

  • Passionate belief that their community can work together to improve overall wellness, leading to a reduction in suicide, domestic violence, and sexual assault
  • Enthusiasm about wellness , health, and positive life choices
  • Ability to advocate for others and help them work towards a healthier lifestyle
  • Good communication; motivational, and interpersonal skills
  • High energy, mental resilience, a willingness to invest effort in one’s work and persistence in the face of difficulties

Role of Wellness Ambassadors:

  • Develop annual wellness plan for their community;
  • Be a willing and active participant, along with other Wellness Ambassadors and staff, to co-create the Action Changes Things Initiative;
  • Market and publicize wellness activities and programs within your community;
  • Recruit other Wellness Ambassadors to participate in programs and to join forces in a coalition, and
  • Identify potential ideas, strategies, and programs for enhancing wellness and a healthy environment whereever you go.

Additional Responsibilities

  • Work with other Ambassadors to complete a community Wellness Audit and create an Action Plan; 
  • Organize at least one outreach activity per month based on all of the ideas provided by the ACT Team; 
  • Participate in a training whenever possible and available online, via teleconference, or in person;
  • Share and post monthly newsletters and flyers around your community, and
  • Share your success and ideas with the ACT team!

Benefits to Becoming a Wellness Ambassador:

  • Be an active participate in co-creating a new paradigm of positive change for Alaska;
  • Recognition for service as a Wellness Ambassador;
  • Provides motivation to stay committed to your own health and wellness goals;
  • Enhances your communication, personal, and wellness skills;
  • Receive occasional wellness goody bags;
  • Being capable of bringing new services and resources to your community that wouldn't otherwise have a way to succeed;
  • Opportunity to be on the cutting edge of an innovative program and to receive training, and 
  • Receive annual recognition.

Orientation and Training:

  • 1 hour orientation video;
  • Ongoing monthly teleconference calls with other Ambassadors within your region;
  • Online videos posted on the website around specific topics in Wellness, and
  • Opportunity to attend regional Think Tank gatherings and 1 annual Think Tank gathering.

Time Commitment:

  • The estimated monthly commitment is about five hours, and
  • Wellness Ambassadors are asked to commit to this role for a minimum of one year. 

 

To sign up to be a Wellness Ambassador Click Here

What Makes a Community a Good Place to Live in?

“What makes a community a good place to live in?”

This question was posed to a diverse panel of rural Alaska Native youth (ages 16-24) at a 2013 stakeholder meeting for a new resource center to support Alaska’s tribes supporting their youth. How can resources be identified or created to help young peoples’ lives thrive and succeed, without hearing from youth themselves?