Texas Conservation Corps Goes Arctic

In early August, five fellow crew members and I began our twelve hour journey from Austin, TX to Fairbanks, AK. The day was a whirlwind of airports and airplanes with layovers in Dallas, TX and Minneapolis, MN. Arriving in Fairbanks, AK we got right down to business. Help for the families affected by the flooding of the Yukon River on May 16th is essential before the Alaskan winter gets going. We started by getting briefed on the disaster details, safety concerns, and cultural acclimation of the community we would be going to. Then we stocked up on supplies; everything from tools and personal protective equipment to food and coolers. Finally, after a lot of conversations about logistics, we were ready to make our way 155 miles northeast to the small village of Circle, Alaska. A community of a hundred or so people, 85% of the population are native Athabaskan tribe.

Since arriving in Circle City we have had many tasks.

We have been carefully gutting log cabins, as materials are hard to come by this far away from town and any reclaimed supplies will certainly be re-used. Our work is all prep work for a group of Mennonite Disaster Service workers who are joining us in Circle. They will rebuild homes on the lots where our crew has torn down and removed saturated boards and insulation, still wet from the flood 3 months ago. All the houses we have worked on have been displaced in one way or another, whether it was picked up and moved 20 feet off its foundation or shifted just enough so that the pylons are forced through the floor in some rooms.

The Alaskan sun circles around us daily, dipping below the horizon for “night time” for only a few hours of darkness. We are so happy to be in Alaska and to have this opportunity to help out the small communities affected by the flood. As the days get shorter and night begins to actually be night, our crew will continue to enjoy our work and hopefully stay warm, until our deployment ends in mid-September.

Katie Vennie, ERT Crew Member

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