ALASKA

Alaska Service Program

PROGRAM DESCRIPTION

Tune into your rugged inner spirit, and spend a month working with the native Athabascan community of Tetlin Village. In a village that subsists largely on hunting and gathering, carpentry work is key, along with environmental and social services. Learn to use hand and power tools to build structures that are imperative to the sustainability of this culture. Explore the surrounding wilderness, ice climbing, backpacking, hiking, and canoeing.

PROGRAM DATES

June 29 to July 26 $5950

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WHAT WILL YOU ACCOMPLISH?

Service projects you will work on in Alaska rely on carpentry-based construction and a lot of building! You will learn to use power tools and use those skills to build facilities, such as bridges and playgrounds, community buildings, outdoor basketball courts, smokehouses, and more.

WHO WILL YOU IMPACT?

You will be immersed in daily life with our Athabascan hosts—people whose roots date back to the original inhabitants of Alaska’s interior. We are part of life in Tetlin, regularly invited to neighbors’ homes for meals, beading lessons, making baskets, and playing music.

WHERE WILL YOU EXPLORE?

Experience unspoiled natural beauty, expansive mountain ranges, and wildlife ranging from bald eagles to moose and caribou on a two-night backpacking trip, a guided ice climbing tour on Root Glacier, and a wetlands canoe trip. You will also visit the popular town of McCarthy.

WORK ON SERVICE PROJECTS THAT MATTER

Service projects in Alaska rely on carpentry-based construction and a lot of building! In addition to hammers, nails and shovels, you will be trained to use circular saws, power drills, and perhaps even a mobile lumber mill. High school volunteers in our Alaska program have built bridges and playgrounds, community buildings, outdoor basketball courts, smokehouses, and more. In addition to a community-wide project every summer, we do repair projects at local elders’ homes, which offers a great way of getting to know several long-standing community members. We also do a few environmental projects at the Tetlin Wildlife Refuge and spend time with local children in non-work hours and during an intermittent community day camp.

VISIONS teens have completed many substantial projects since our first Alaska summer in 1995. One that represents the scope of what our volunteers accomplish took place in Mentasta Village, where the community envisioned a center for elders and children to gather and share their native language. Local folks and VISIONS teens chopped timber, milled logs, built a special foundation to accommodate permafrost, and constructed the building, finishing in summer 2002. In November that year, a 7.9 earthquake shook Alaska’s interior, and Mentasta was the hardest hit community. The only village structure to remain intact was the new center, which became a refuge and temporary school.
VISIONS Alaska Projects

FEATURED PARTNER

One of our partners: VISIONS partners with Tetlin Village Council, which works to serve the needs of its 200 or so community members who are mostly Athabascan native people. Alaska’s Native Village Councils govern villages and also aim to preserve their ancestors’ beliefs, customs and traditions.

CONTRIBUTE TO A COMMUNITY THAT WELCOMES YOU LIKE FAMILY

You will be immersed in daily life with our Athabascan hosts—people whose roots date back to the original inhabitants of Alaska’s interior. Visit with village elders, play games with local kids, and take a traditional steam bath in a lodge that past teen volunteers helped build. We are part of life in Tetlin, regularly invited to neighbors’ homes for meals, beading lessons, making unique birch bark baskets, playing music, processing and drying wild game and fish. We will also listen to stories and learn how the Athabascans’ ingenuity and resourcefulness are intrinsic to living in this remote and formidable land.

OUR HOME BASE:

TETLIN VILLAGE

In the heart of the Upper Tanana Valley, along the Tetlin River and in the shadow of the Alaska Range lies Tetlin Village. Home to about 200 people, Tetlin is a native village with rich traditions deeply embedded in day-to-day living.

With VISIONS Alaska, you will experience unspoiled natural beauty, including expansive mountain ranges and wildlife ranging from bald eagles to moose and caribou, along with adventures within some amazing landscapes. We work with St. Elias Guides, our trusted partners for ice climbing the Root Glacier, and we visit the popular town of McCarthy and explore nearby Kenicott, once home to the richest copper mines in the world. Another weekend is reserved for a two-night backpacking trip in the dramatic Wrangell Mountains. Exploring Alaska means living with a lot of light in big, wide open skies. Situated more than 1,300 latitudinal miles north of New York City, the sun never truly sets during the summer months, and the night skies remain like early dusk.

EXPLORE ALASKA

DAILY LIFE

We live together as a group in the high school, centrally located in Tetlin Village. There are bathrooms, showers, and kitchen facilities, and VISIONS provides a thick floor mattress for each person.

Service projects take place five days per week, starting after breakfast and wrapping up in mid- or late afternoon. You typically get to choose between three different worksites each day, most involving construction and building. We take a lunch break and water breaks as needed, and work at a steady, productive pace.

One day a week you will be on “homebase crew” with a few other participants and a leader. The crew gets up a bit early to make a big breakfast for everyone, runs errands and buys food for the next meals, does laundry, helps prepare dinner, and takes in a fun “day in the life.”

After work there is time for activities in the community, a nearby excursion or short hike, or some downtime before dinner. Dinners include meat and vegetarian options with plenty of variety and always enough for seconds. There also are healthy snacks available throughout the day.

A few evenings a week, we have group meetings that last about an hour and are a time to reflect on the volunteer and cultural experience. Other nights we’ll hang out as a group, prepare for the next day’s projects, or have get-togethers with local friends. In addition to after work and evening activities, you’ll take part in exciting full-day excursions.

VISIONS is not a teen tour with a day-to-day travel itinerary. Instead we settle in to our home base and are part of daily life. In this place so far removed in location and attitude from the “lower 48” that Alaskans refer to everywhere else as simply “outside,” you soon will feel like an insider in your temporary home. The itinerary provides highlights of some of our activities in Alaska.

ITINERARY

First Day

  • Arrivals to Fairbanks

During Trip

  • Drive to Tetlin & Welcome!
  • Orientation & Worksite Training
  • Fourth of July Celebrations
  • Tetlin Wildlife Refuge Canoe Trip
  • Backpacking Trip
  • Ice Climbing & McCarthy Trip
  • Mukluk Land Visitor Park
  • Community Goodbyes

Last day

  • Departures from Fairbanks

MORE DETAILS

  • VISIONS leaders meet each volunteer upon arrival at the Fairbanks airport. We stay the first night at a community center in Fairbanks and drive to Tetlin the next morning. Leaders also see each participant off from the airport at the end of the program.
  • Parents receive a phone call or email once their child is met by VISIONS leaders at the airport. After that, phone calls home are generally limited to once a week.
  • We live together as a group in a school, and boys and girls sleep in separate areas. VISIONS provides thick floor mattress, and participants bring their own pillow and sleeping bag.
  • VISIONS has a 1 to 4 or 5 leader to student ratio, one of the best ratios among summer programs. The maximum group size is 25, and programs are gender-balanced. Most participants attend alone, and no more than two friends may attend a program together.
  • We emphasize an inclusive group dynamic. Things like age and grade become less important on a VISIONS program. We eat most meals and do most activities as a large group, and we break into small rotating groups for workdays.
  • Details such as a packing list, travel notes, and health forms are provided upon enrollment through login web pages. The process is straightforward and we are here to help. VISIONS travel agent books flights, which are not included with tuition.
  • Teen volunteers receive 100 community service hours. Youth summer camp program for ages 14 – 18.

Program Director(s):

NOT QUITE READY?

We'd be happy to get you in touch with a parent whose child has already been through one of our programs.

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