MDS rebuilds log homes with Native Americans in AlaskaBy Brian Pipkin Mennonite Disaster Service
AKRON, Pa. — Mennonite Disaster Service volunteers are doing without many comforts as they help members of a Han Native American community in Eagle, Alaska, return to their homes.
Groups of skilled volunteers agreed to long working hours, unpredictable weather, sleeping under a tent, cold showers, washing clothes by hand, no cell phone service, limited electricity, no Internet service and eating anything placed before them.
“It is exciting to see how flexible and service-minded people are when we ask for assistance on such a unique project,” said Cathie Kearsley, MDS director of human resources. “The interest level in this project has been phenomenal.”
During April and May, Alaska experienced a series of natural disasters in which a large ice jam gave way on Alaska’s Yukon River and sent massive ice chunks into many of the Native American settlements of Eagle Village.
“Homes had been pushed as far as a half mile from their original positions, bunching them together up against trees,” said Bill McCoy, MDS Region IV director, who recently visited Eagle from Portland, Ore.
McCoy, who was one of the first MDS leaders to arrive in Eagle, began cooperating with Joyce Roberts, the tribal chief. Roberts’ goal is to build “updated homes and not to settle for anything less,” he said
MDS has committed experienced volunteers from Canada and the United States who are willing to serve at least two weeks. Groups of 15, rotating every two weeks, are flying to Eagle until Sept. 12, the date of completion. The goal is to build 10 log homes in nine weeks.
The phones have been exceptionally busy at MDS.
“In five business days, nearly 75 volunteers have been recruited, and over 200 phone calls came into the office expressing interest,” said Kevin King, MDS executive director.
Time is important for Eagle residents and MDS volunteers.
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